Natalie Kelly and Stephen Shelley: Florida’s Managing Entities and Farm Share Team Up on Health Issues of Food Insecurity, Mental Health

Numerous studies have made it clear that food insecurity is linked to increased rates of depression and anxiety. Undoubtedly, when one of your most fundamental needs – for nutritious food – goes unmet, your mental health suffers. That’s why Florida’s seven Managing Entities, which oversee Florida’s behavioral health safety net system, are partnering with Farm Share, Florida’s largest independent food bank, to address both issues.

Under the partnership, a card will be included in each bag of food distributed at Farm Share events. The card provides important information on how to contact a Managing Entity to connect with mental health and substance use disorder providers that accept clients who have no health insurance. Behavioral health services include treatment for mental health issues and substance use disorder, as well as “wraparound services” like transportation, child care, employment, and more.

Florida’s seven local Managing Entities work with a network of over 300 behavioral health care providers, who deliver services to more than 300,000 of Florida’s most vulnerable residents – including children, expectant mothers, veterans, and the chronically homeless. 

We recognize that food insecurity and poor mental health are interrelated, which is why we’re raising awareness about behavioral health services at food distribution events. The National Alliance on Mental Illness has long recognized access to food as a social determinant of health. NAMI acknowledges that food insecurity can lead to mental health issues and, conversely, that untreated mental health issues can impair a person’s ability to find and keep a job and access food.

People who have fallen on hard times and can’t afford food may not know that behavioral health services are available – regardless of their ability to pay.

The goal of both of our organizations is to help Floridians get back on their feet. By providing nutritious food and information on how to access the treatment people may need for anxiety, depression, or substance use disorder, we can help people tackle the multiple challenges they may be facing.

These are hard times, and we’re here to give a hand up.

Natalie Kelly is the CEO of the Florida Association of Managing Entities. Stephen Shelley is the  CEO of Farm Share.

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