Tampa, Fla. – Today, First Lady Casey DeSantis, who also serves as Chair of Florida’s Children and Youth Cabinet, hosted a listening session on mental health and substance abuse at Tampa General Hospital with elected officials and stakeholders from the public and private sectors. During the visit, on behalf of the Governor, the First Lady highlighted that the Department of Children and Families (DCF) will be deploying $8 million to expand critical child welfare and family support services for families impacted by the opioid epidemic.

The First Lady was joined by Florida Senate President Bill Galvano, Tampa General Hospital President and CEO John Couris, DCF Secretary Chad Poppell, Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) Secretary Mary Mayhew, Representative Mel Ponder, Representative Jackie Toledo, Representative Colleen Burton and Gail Ryder, Vice President of Behavioral Health Services of BayCare.

“Today was my second listening session this week to highlight the state’s efforts regarding mental health and substance abuse and our commitment to harnessing the power of the public and private sectors as we work toward a 21st century approach to healthcare,” said First Lady Casey DeSantis. “As part of our continued efforts, the Governor and I are excited to highlight that the Department of Children and Families will be deploying $8 million to expand critical child welfare and family support services, specifically to address children who have been affected by the opioid epidemic. We will continue to do what is necessary and collaborate with our partners to ensure accountability for the taxpayers of this state and get meaningful help to those who are suffering.”

The First Lady has been traveling the state hosting listening sessions on mental health and substance abuse following her recent launch of Hope for Healing Florida, a new multi-agency mental health and substance abuse campaign. This coordinated effort will incorporate the combined resources of state agencies and private sector partners to better serve the needs of Floridians struggling with mental health and substance abuse. Additional information about the campaign is available on HopeforHealingFL.com.

“The devastating and widespread impacts of the opioid crisis can be seen in communities across our state. I appreciate our Governor and First Lady partnering with the Legislature and community leaders to attack this problem from all sides,” said Florida Senate President Bill Galvano. “We are working to provide treatment for individuals and families coping with addiction, but also working to prevent addiction through education and alternative treatments that provide pain relief for ill or injured patients but reduce the possibility that they would ever become addicted to opioids.”

Photo Credit: Governor’s Press Office.

“Governor DeSantis and First Lady DeSantis are leading the charge in state and local government collaboration to combat the opioid epidemic in Florida,” said Department of Children and Families Secretary Chad Poppell. “Addressing Florida’s response to the opioid crisis demands a united front that is dedicated to supporting children and families struggling with the effects of a substance use disorder. This funding will allow DCF and our community partners to continue our work in connecting families with robust behavioral health services needed to recover and thrive.”

“I’m deeply saddened by the pain and suffering the opioid epidemic has inflicted on families across the nation,” said Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Mary Mayhew. “There are far too many children raised by grandparents or in foster care because their parents are battling addiction to drugs and alcohol. To address this crisis, we need to prioritize effective treatment focused on recovery, and I commend the First Lady for bringing attention to this issue and for taking action to improve the health and well-being of individuals and families in Florida affected by the torment of opioid abuse.”

“With First Lady Casey DeSantis on the front lines of Florida’s efforts to combat the opioid crisis, I’m confident we as a state can reverse the increasing dependence on and abuse of opioids, as well as the pain and suffering these drugs have brought on so many Florida families,” said John Couris, President and CEO, Tampa General Hospital.  “We are proud to welcome First Lady DeSantis to Tampa General Hospital. It was an incredible opportunity for us to share with her our multidisciplinary approach to combatting opioids, which involves identifying alternatives to opioids for pain management, developing guidelines on pain management, creating a handbook for practitioners treating babies who were exposed to drugs in-utero and working with community organizations to provide mental health services to patients with symptoms of abuse. Through these efforts, we have effectively reduced use of IV opioid drugs at Tampa General Hospital by 40 percent and decreased length of stay for many patients, which reduces the cost for care and the risk of complications.”

“I applaud Governor Ron DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis for their energy, focus and collaboration as our state works to protect Florida’s most vulnerable populations, especially the children and families being devastated by the opioid epidemic,” said Representative Mel Ponder. “Through the power of teamwork, especially with such a talented group of dedicated individuals like we have here in Florida, I believe we can make huge strides in tackling this epidemic. Furthermore, with the support of the faith-based community, I believe we have a strong coalition that can help in our endeavors.”

“Mental health is such an important issue for our state and deserves serious leadership,” said Representative Jackie Toledo. “I applaud First Lady DeSantis for bringing our community together to find commonsense and consensus-driven solutions. I look forward to working with business and nonprofit leaders in Tampa Bay to implement meaningful change.”

“I would like to thank Governor Ron DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis for their leadership in both the fight against substance abuse and advocacy for improved access to mental health treatment,” said Representative Colleen Burton. “The First Lady has shown an incredible amount of drive and passion for the most vulnerable as we work together across the state seeking solutions to a serious issue.”

Yesterday, on behalf the Governor, First Lady DeSantis held a listening session in Northwest Florida about the mental health issues facing communities affected by Hurricane Michael. During the visit, the First Lady highlighted that DCF will be installing Telehealth Portals for mental health services in all public schools in Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Franklin and Liberty Counties by the beginning of the school year. Additional information regarding yesterday’s announcements can be found HERE.



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