Venice, Fla. – Today, First Lady Casey DeSantis held a listening session at Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast to discuss new mental health and substance abuse initiatives. Today’s listening session was part of the First Lady’s Hope for Healing Florida campaign, a multi-agency initiative that strives to combine the resources and efforts of the public and private sectors to better serve Floridians struggling with mental health and substance abuse.

“It is imperative that our state’s leaders stay focused on the discussion and implementation of initiatives our Florida communities are employing to raise awareness of mental health issues and substance abuse,” said First Lady Casey DeSantis. “By working together in a historic collaborative effort, we will be able to provide the necessary care and support to those that are seeking help.”

Photo Credit: Governor’s Press Office

The First Lady was joined at the roundtable by Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Mary Mayhew, Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Simone Marstiller, Representative Ray Rodrigues, Department of Children and Families Chief of Staff David Mica, as well as other stakeholders and community leaders.

“Our visit to Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast this morning provided us an opportunity to meet with stakeholders and hear their perspective on how we can best facilitate appropriate treatment and resources for residents with serious mental illness and substance use disorders in their area,” said Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Mary Mayhew. “I applaud First Lady DeSantis and all of our state and community partners who participated this morning for their investment in making these efforts a priority.”

“DJJ is committed to facing the critical issue of mental health and substance abuse in our youth head on and as soon as it is identified.” said Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Simone Marstiller. “It is important that we support our youth by acknowledging when there is an issue and that we encourage them to share when they are facing challenges. Our youth today have many obstacles on their path towards adulthood and it is our shared responsibility to provide a safe and supportive environment where healing is available without stigma. By supporting our youth when they are in crisis and preventing them from going down a troubled path, we are investing in them and in their future.”

“I would like to thank the First Lady for her strong leadership on these challenges facing Floridians,” said Representative Ray Rodrigues. “During these roundtables I continue to learn ways we can better serve those in need and how we can more efficiently combine resources. We have a responsibility to continue working on these issues for the children and citizens of our state.”

Governor DeSantis’ Bold Vision for a Brighter Future Budget included nearly $2 billion in substance abuse prevention and mental health funding. This includes more than $123 million in state and federal funding for medication-assisted treatment and prevention and recovery services to confront the opioid epidemic.

The Governor’s budget also included $75 million for the Mental Health Assistance Allocation for Florida schools. This funding will go directly to school districts to provide additional mental health services to students in need.

For more information on the First Lady’s Hope for Healing Florida campaign, please visit



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