Advertisement
  1. Florida Politics
  2. /
  3. The Buzz

Casey DeSantis visits Panhandle to announce mental health aid

The aid will add counselors, telehealth resources and temporary housing to a region that is still struggling to pick up after the Category 5 storm carved a path of destruction through Florida’s northwest.
Casey DeSantis [Florida Governor's Office]
Published Jun. 26
Updated Jun. 26

Florida is sending more mental health aid to the Hurricane Michael-stricken Panhandle nearly nine months after landfall, First Lady Casey DeSantis announced Wednesday morning, after local officials had warned that the region needs significantly more help to treat an uptick in mental health issues.

The aid adds counselors, virtual resources and temporary housing to a region that is still struggling to pick up after the Category 5 storm carved a path of destruction through Florida’s northwest. But the aid, some leaders warned, only begins to address the long-running needs created by Michael’s aftermath.

RELATED COVERAGE: Eight months after Hurricane Michael, many fear a mental health crisis

DeSantis’ announcement Wednesday included a plan to implement telehealth — or access through technology and the Internet to healthcare services — in every public school in five affected counties to connect children to mental health services by the first day of school later this summer. The telehealth initiative is expected to reach 35,000 students in Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gulf and Liberty counties, she said.

It also included $2.3 million that in the past few weeks was funneled to the Department of Children and Families through FEMA, which will increase outreach services and pay for some crisis counselors in an existing community program through 2020. The federal Department of Education has also awarded $1.25 million for Bay County’s school district to add licensed social workers and paraprofessionals to each school campus.

The state Division of Emergency Management, which directs FEMA money to various state and local entities, has secured 100 temporary trailers to distribute to people in need while more permanent housing solutions are found. And, in a nod toward the mental health needs that might be created by future disasters, the division is also creating a new position to specifically deal with mental health response and recovery.

“While our needs are still great and ongoing, we are very grateful for the support we continue to receive,” said Sharon Michalik, the communications director for the school district in Bay County, in a statement. She praised several components of the additional assistance, including the telehealth sites as “another piece of the mental health support puzzle we continue to try to solve for our students and their families.”

“Our needs, however, continue to outweigh the support we have,” she wrote. “We will continue to try to leverage all of the resources possible to serve our children, their families and our employees.”

DeSantis, who has made mental health one of her priorities as first lady, was joined at a fire station in the Panama City suburb of Callaway by Mary Mayhew, the head of the state’s health care agency; Chad Poppell, who runs the Department of Children and Families, and Jared Moskowitz, the state’s emergency management director.

“We’re here, we will be here, we will continue to shine a spotlight on the needs of this area,” promised Mayhew.

In Bay County local leaders have said a ballooning mental health crisis, particularly among children, has been taking root in the destruction left by the storm. Hundreds of schoolchildren have been referred for further mental health care, though the region faces a shortage of providers. Educators have reported children bursting into tears just at the sound of heavy rains and, in some extreme cases, suicide attempts on campus.

Some local providers, already strained, have reported losing 30% to 40% of their staff after the storm. School administrators in Bay had also feared that students on summer break would lack regular contact with staff and educators to check in on their mental well-being, though the district is still providing food through some schools during the summer months and local groups are arranging for summer camps.

The federal education money will help defray some of the costs in Bay County, though the district has previously said it would need about $30 million to put a licensed clinician and a support team on each school campus.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, filed a bill, HB 1161, to implement online voter registration in 2018.
    This week, GOP senators rallied support around Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, to become Senate president for the 2023 and 2024 legislative session.
  2. Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, right, testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Friday, in the second public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. SUSAN WALSH  |  AP
    Experts on foreign policy said it was ridiculous to think that one person could turn a country “bad.”
  3. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., left, talks with ranking member Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., during a hearing of the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, during the first public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP) SAUL LOEB  |  AP
    Almost 9 in 10 think the House impeaches Trump but the Senate won’t convict.
  4. U.S. District Judge Mark Walker speaking during 2016 graduation ceremonies at the Florida State University College of Law. [Florida State College of Law] Florida State College of Law
    The ruling, if it’s not overturned, means that President Donald Trump will not automatically be first on the 2020 ballot in Florida.
  5. FILE - In this Aug. 1, 2019, file photo, Donald Trump Jr. speaks before the arrival of President Donald Trump at a campaign rally at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File) JOHN MINCHILLO  |  AP
    University of Florida student body president Michael Murphy received a resolution for his impeachment Tuesday. Then the state’s Republican Party started an online petition and fundraiser.
  6. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Pensacola.
    Prosecutors say Farm Service Agency director Duane E. Crawson, 43, of Bonifay, led a conspiracy to get his friends, family members and acquaintances to recruit others to submit false applications for...
  7. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the Panama City City Hall on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019. His wife Casey DeSantis is pregnant with the family's third child. He joked that the family will have to transition from "man-to-man to zone defense." (Joshua Boucher/News Herald via AP) JOSHUA BOUCHER/ THE NEWS HERALD  |  AP
    The federal judge had ordered that 17 felons not be removed from the voter rolls before a lawsuit goes to trial next year.
  8. In this Nov. 12, 2019 file photo, Roger Stone, a longtime Republican provocateur and former confidant of President Donald Trump, waits in line at the federal court in Washington. MANUEL BALCE CENETA  |  AP
    Roger Stone, a longtime friend and ally of President Donald Trump, was found guilty Friday of witness tampering and lying to Congress about his pursuit of Russian-hacked emails damaging to Hillary...
  9. The Capitol is seen in Washington on. Impeachment hearings for President Donald Trump come at the very time that Capitol Hill usually tends to its mound of unfinished business. J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE  |  AP
  10. This March 7, 2016, file photo shows the Trump National Doral clubhouse in Doral. WILFREDO LEE  |  AP
    A party spokeswoman confirmed to the Miami Herald Thursday that the annual event, to be held over several days in late January, will take place at Trump National Doral Miami, located near Miami...
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement