Casey DeSantis

With the school year starting in the Panhandle, students across the region will be able to get mental health services through new technology.

Last week, Florida’s First Lady Casey DeSantis announced more than 60 schools in six counties across the region will have telehealth portals as the area recovers from Hurricane Michael which hit Northwest Florida in October.

DeSantis announced there will be telehealth portals in Bay, Gulf, Calhoun, Jackson, Liberty and Franklin Counties which will all be in place by Monday as the new school year begins.

Appearing at Bay High School on Thursday, DeSantis, Department of Children and Families (DCF) Secretary Chad Poppell, Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) Secretary Mary Mayhew, state Rep. Jay Trumbull, R-Panama City, state Rep. Jason Shoaf, R-Port St. Joe, Bay County Schools Superintendent Bill Husfelt and Department of Education Chancellor for K-12 Public Schools Jacob Oliva showcased the new portals.

“I was proud to be in Northwest Florida this morning to announce the installation of these portals that will bring the necessary mental health services that our students need and deserve,” said DeSantis. “While this is an innovative, 21st century approach and a promising start to tackling the mental health crisis, we understand that this is just one piece of the puzzle. We want to make sure that people realize that hope is on the horizon and at the end of the day this community will be made whole.”

“Each school will have one portal in a centralized location as determined by the school,” Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office noted. “After receiving a referral from a guidance counselor, and written consent from a parent or legal guardian, each student will have the opportunity to speak one-on-one in private with a mental health service provider who will assess, diagnose, and if necessary, begin to treat the student. Parents will have the ability to call into the session via a mobile app or receive a summary from the provider following the session if they are unable to participate. This will be in full compliance with all HIPPA laws.”

“By introducing telehealth portals in Panhandle schools, Governor DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis are once again demonstrating their unwavering dedication to quality mental health care access,” said Poppell. “DCF is proud to join them in this effort, ensuring that all Floridians feel safe and comfortable getting the help they need, when they need it.”

“The installation of these telehealth services for public schools in these six Northwest Florida counties will be a valuable resource that students can turn to for their immediate mental health needs,” said Mayhew. “I commend Governor DeSantis, the First Lady and the Department of Children and Families for swiftly taking action to support the residents of Northwest Florida – who have already shown such incredible perseverance – with this critical access to rehabilitative health care technology.”

Also at the event, the first lady announced the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) will hire a Recovery Mental Health Coordinator to provide mental health services and coordination following a disaster. She also said the U.S. Department of Education has a Disaster Recovery Team in place which will soon be coming to the Panhandle as the area continues to recover from Hurricane Michael.

“Since day one, Governor DeSantis and First Lady DeSantis have demonstrated a steadfast commitment to Northwest Florida’s recovery from Hurricane Michael,” said FDEM Director Jared Moskowitz. “When we came to Bay County on the governor’s first full day in office, we made it clear that we would support the people of Northwest Florida until they rebuilt stronger than before. Today, we’re building on that commitment and making Florida a leader in mental health recovery by hiring a Recovery Mental Health Coordinator – one of the first in the nation.”


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