First Lady Casey DeSantis today toured sites in Northwest Florida and highlighted five major announcements being implemented by state agencies and federal partners to assist Northwest Florida residents and provide mental health support services to communities impacted by the trauma of Hurricane Michael. The First Lady was joined by Department of Children and Families Secretary Chad Poppell, Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz and Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Mary Mayhew.
“The Governor and I continue our commitment to help the good folks of Northwest Florida get back on their feet. We fully understand there’s a lot of work that still needs to be done, and we’re here for the long haul,” said First Lady Casey DeSantis. “To those still suffering in the wake of Hurricane Michael, you have not been forgotten. This is just as much about rebuilding the physical destruction as it is healing the invisible wounds and trauma caused by the storm. Today’s announcements from across our state agencies and federal partners will provide much needed support as we work to make our communities whole again and come back stronger than ever.”
During the visit, First Lady DeSantis highlighted the Department of Children and Families’ (DCF) upcoming installation of Telehealth portals for mental health services in all public schools in Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Franklin, and Liberty Counties; $2.3 million in federal dollars to expand DCF’s Crisis Counseling Program; an award of $1.25 million from the U.S. Department of Education to Bay County Schools to help improve mental health services; the creation of a new state Director of Mental Health Response and Recovery; and the Florida Division of Emergency Management’s (FDEM) announcement that is has secured a total of 100 travel trailers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide immediate relief to those looking for housing.
The First Lady also encouraged any locals in need of immediate counseling services to utilize the federal Disaster Distress Helpline provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which provides immediate crisis counseling 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The number is 1-800-985-5990 or Text TalkWithUs to 66746.
Photo Credit: Governor’s Press Office
“Since taking office, Governor Ron DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis have demonstrated their unwavering support to the individuals and communities impacted by Hurricane Michael,” said DCF Secretary Chad Poppell. “Helping our children heal from the trauma and stress of Hurricane Michael is a critical element in rebuilding our communities and creating resilient families. By ensuring every student has access to mental health services, I’m confident that we will not only recover from Michael, but also move forward to ensure our children reach their full potential.”
“By hiring a Director of Mental Health Response and Recovery, Florida is becoming one of the first states in the nation to have such a position that ensures mental health is a top priority following disasters,” said FDEM Director Jared Moskowitz. “I applaud the First Lady and Governor DeSantis for their unyielding dedication to make sure Northwest Florida recovers. We will continue to work every day on real solutions for Northwest Florida’s recovery from Hurricane Michael.”
“The devastation of Hurricane Michael persists not only in the physical toll on our communities but also as trauma in those who continue to struggle with the uncertainty brought about in its aftermath,” said Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Mary Mayhew. “As Northwest Florida perseveres through the lingering effects of the storm, these new initiatives will provide more support for the people rebuilding both their lives and their homes. Our Agency will do everything we can to assist Governor DeSantis and the First Lady, the Department of Children and Families and the Florida Division of Emergency Management to ensure residents in Northwest Florida have the all the resources necessary to address their mental health needs and return to the quality of life they knew before the hurricane.”
The Department of Children and Families (DCF) today announced the upcoming installation of Telehealth portals for mental health services in all public schools in Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Franklin, and Liberty counties serving more than 35,000 students. DCF will work with local school districts over the coming weeks to ensure these services are available by the start of the school year.
Expansion of DCF Crisis Counseling Program
The Department of Children and Families (DCF) today announced they will receive a total of $2.3 million in federal dollars to expand outreach and crisis counselors through the Crisis Counseling Program.
U.S. Department of Education Grant
The U.S. Department of Education today announced Bay County has been awarded $1.25 million to help improve mental health through the expansion of licensed school social workers and paraprofessionals to support existing school counselors.
Director of Mental Health Response and Recovery (FDEM)
The Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) today announced it will be creating and hiring the new position of Director of Mental Health Response and Recovery. Following a disaster, this person will be deployed to an affected area to ensure people understand and utilize mental health support services quickly. This person’s first stop will be Bay County.
100 FEMA Travel Trailers Secured for Northwest Florida
The Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) has secured a total of 100 travel trailers from FEMA – at no cost to the state – to provide immediate relief to those looking for housing. FDEM has donated the travel trailers to counties upon their request. Bay County has received 80 travel trailers and Jackson County has received 20.