Visit Includes Stop at United Way of Northeast Florida 2-1-1

Jacksonville, Fla. – Today, First Lady Casey DeSantis continued her efforts to bring health care and policy experts to the table in the fight against opioid abuse and Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). As part of her Hope for Healing Florida initiative, First Lady DeSantis toured UF Health Jacksonville’s neonatal intensive care unit and held a listening session on emerging NAS trends, challenges and best practices for helping those struggling with drug addiction. The First Lady also visited the United Way of Northeast Florida 2-1-1 headquarters, which serves the local community and helps those in crisis.

“Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome is a serious issue in our state, and I am determined to keep the momentum moving at a rapid pace toward real solutions and real strategies to help people overcome addiction,” said First Lady DeSantis. “The urgency is indisputable. Families and communities are fighting this battle, and we must continue to provide lifelines through resources, support and, most importantly, hope. I want to thank UF Health Jacksonville for having me today and for working with me to bring this issue to the forefront.”

Photo Credit: Governor’s Press Office

Today’s events followed the First Lady’s announcement last week of a new NAS Statewide Prevention Coordinator position to enhance resources and services for pregnant women with opioid addiction, as well as the announcement of a new three-year $58.8 million grant for tracking and responding to opioid abuse in Florida.

According to the Florida Department of Health, last year more than 4,200 individuals lost their lives to opioids and more than 1,500 children were born with neonatal abstinence syndrome. On average, 17 Florida lives are lost every day to opioid abuse.

The First Lady’s Hope for Healing Florida initiative is a multi-agency mental health and substance abuse campaign to coordinate the combined efforts and resources of the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF), Florida Department of Health (DOH), Agency for Health Care Administration, Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and Florida Department of Education to better serve the needs of Floridians struggling with mental health and substance abuse.

I am grateful Governor DeSantis and First Lady DeSantis have made this important issue a priority for our state,” said Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees. “Under their resolute, decisive leadership, we have taken bold steps to combat this epidemic. Today’s discussions with dedicated health and substance abuse professionals continue the work begun by the Governor and First Lady, who are committed to finding meaningful ways to help those suffering from addiction.”

“I’m grateful that Governor DeSantis and First Lady DeSantis continue to bring awareness to the importance of behavioral health and make it a priority for this administration,” said DCF Secretary Chad Poppell. “Their combined dedication to this issue is truly unprecedented, and the Department of Children and Families is proud to be partnering with them in this effort. Together, we are taking action to increase prevention activities and provide high-quality, timely behavioral health services to people whose lives have been turned upside down by substance abuse. We’re giving hope to adults, children, and babies, and protecting the sanctity of Florida’s families.”

“We are honored to have First Lady Casey DeSantis at UF Health today to share her ongoing efforts to help our families and children who are being affected by the opioid abuse wreaking havoc on our communities,” said Dr. Leon Haley, Chief Executive Officer of UF Health Jacksonville. “Her Hope for Healing Florida campaign is shining a necessary light on substance abuse and mental health. The UF Health team and I look forward to continuing to work with her on these issues.”



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