More than 35,000 students will have access to mental health services through innovative health care technology to rebuild students’ emotional and mental well-being following Hurricane Michael.
First Lady Casey DeSantis and Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) Secretary Chad Poppell today announced the upcoming implementation of telehealth portals in all public schools in Bay, Gulf, Franklin, Calhoun, and Liberty Counties to improve access to mental health services for more than 35,000 students impacted by Hurricane Michael.
“Hurricane Michael caused more than just physical destruction. The children and families of these counties suffered emotionally as well,” said First Lady Casey DeSantis. “Governor DeSantis and I are committed to continuing our efforts to help families in Northwest Florida recover after this devastating loss. We were here after the storm, and we will continue our work supporting families in Northwest Florida and across the state.”
Behavioral health service providers in Northwest Florida experienced significant structural, operational, and capacity limitations, hindering the accessibility of critical mental health services.
There has been a significant increase in crisis incidents and acute care admissions through the Baker Act often requiring transfer to facilities in other cities. Mental Health providers report a 37 percent increase in outpatient children’s services due to symptoms of traumatic stress which is consistent with community trauma, leaving at-risk youth with increased fragility and difficulty coping with feelings.
“I can’t thank Governor DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis enough for their continued support in addressing the critical need for additional behavioral health services following Hurricane Michael,” said DCF Secretary Chad Poppell. “Through this innovative health care approach, behavioral health providers will be able to expand access to services, and ensure every family has the tools needed to recover from this traumatic experience. Florida’s families are resilient, and we will continue to work diligently to support them.”
To improve the accessibility to mental health services, DCF, in collaboration with our community partners, will repurpose $2 million to install telehealth portals in every public school setting in Bay, Gulf, Franklin, Calhoun, and Liberty counties, serving more than 35,000 students by the start of the school year.
Telehealth is the process of providing health care through technology, often using videoconferencing. Through Telehealth portals, a therapist or counselor will be available to provide digital mental health counseling and support to students and faculty who are struggling.
Additionally, DCF will receive $2.2 million from our federal partners to expand outreach and crisis counselors through the Crisis Counseling Program.