Gov. Ron DeSantis announces $23 million for Florida's mental health programs

During a visit to the Tampa Firefighters Museum, Florida's governor announced millions of dollars from the CARES Act will be used for mental health programs.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state will allocate more than $23 million from the federal funds will go to help Floridians with mental illnesses. The announcement came during a roundtable discussion Friday morning.

"The effects of the pandemic have been significant and these funds are an important resource to help Floridians recover from COVID-19," he said. "This additional funding is going to allow us to expand community-based programs and services within our state mental health treatment facilities to enhance the system of care for children and adults." 

The funds will be used in a number of different areas, including the elderly and children. Desantis said $18 million will go to community-based services, targeting those areas that have the "greatest need." 

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The funds will help an additional 300 adults with "severe and persistent mental illness" through the Florida Community Assertive Teams, he said.

"[It] will hopefully decrease Baker Acts, emergency care visits and jail utilization," DeSantis said.

He said the funds will also expand teams dedicated to children and youth who are at-risk and serve up to 375 additional children offering psychiatric services and counseling.

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In addition. $4.5 million will be used to enhance state mental health treatment facility services, which will establish a jail-based diversion pilot program.

"We spent an awful lot of money on things like testing and staff…this is something that is absolutely critical," DeSantis said. "Understanding the fallout from the pandemic is not simply limited to someone that may get admitted to the hospital for COVID, that it extends far beyond that and into every community in the state of Florida."

"It's not an easy problem to deal with under any circumstances," he added.

Gov. Ron DeSantis and first lady Casey DeSantis held a roundtable on mental health for first responders in Tampa, Fla. at the Tampa Firefighters Museum. (FOX 13 News)

First lady Casey DeSantis, also in attendance, said the state understands there are people suffering "and that extends just beyond just the virus."

"There are people really suffering through this pandemic, and I will say so, silently," she said. "one of the worst things that you can do when you're depressed is isolate. We are trying to provide them resources and outlets."

Claire Reynolds from Crisis Center of Tampa Bay wanted to remind the public of the organization's helpline which launched last year: 1-866-4-FLHELP. 

"It's OK to not be OK," she said during the roundtable. "What's not OK is not reached out for help."

If you or a loved one is feeling distressed, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The crisis center provides free and confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to civilians and veterans. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Or text HOME to 741-741 (Crisis Text Line)

CLICK HERE for the warning signs and risk factors of suicide. Call 1-800-273-TALK for free and confidential emotional support.