Rural schools in Florida to receive money to expand student telehealth services

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WJHG 7 | September 21, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (PRESS RELEASE) – Monday, during a mental health roundtable at the Governor’s Mansion, First Lady Casey DeSantis announced that the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) is issuing grant funding to 18 rural Florida school districts to increase students’ access to mental health and student support services and to enhance access to school and community-based providers.

Joining the First Lady at the roundtable were Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Mary Mayhew; Dr. Eric Hall, Senior Chancellor at the Florida Department of Education (FDOE); Dr. Patricia Babcock, Deputy Secretary, Florida Department of Children & Families (DCF); Superintendent Mike Thomas, Dixie County; Superintendent Shirley Joseph, Madison County; and Superintendent Danny Glover, Jr., Taylor County.

“Governor DeSantis and I are immensely proud that these funds will be available to support schools in their efforts to help students overcome barriers to achieving positive mental health wellness,” said First Lady Casey DeSantis. “Our schools’ leaders and educators have done a tremendous job preparing for a successful school year, and we are pleased to offer these grants, which will enable them to bolster existing infrastructure and staffing to meet their students’ and families’ ongoing needs.”

These funds are available through the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund, under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and focus on supporting districts to improve access to school-based mental health services in areas where access to qualified professionals is limited and with lower rates of internet connectivity in local communities.

“This funding continues to strengthen Florida’s efforts to support mental health and wellbeing through telehealth services,” said Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Mary Mayhew. “Technology can bridge gaps and provide additional mental health care supports, which is critical for all Floridians, but especially for students in rural districts in our state. Increasing access to mental health services is more critical now than ever, and the Governor and First Lady have remained committed to this goal.”

“Getting mental health services to students in need quickly and efficiently improves student achievement and long-term success, and I applaud Governor and First Lady DeSantis for prioritizing this critical need using Florida’s CARES Act funding,” said Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran. “This is an outstanding opportunity for rural districts to pursue innovative solutions that will benefit all students and families who are participating in both brick-and-mortar and distant learning education models.”

“While it’s extremely important that Florida children are given the opportunity to have normal, healthy, and happy lives, it’s also clear that, now more than ever, they need access to quality mental and emotional support,” said DCF Secretary Chad Poppell. “I’m grateful to the First Lady and our state partners for making this a priority, and I look forward to working with them to see students and their families through this difficult time, helping them grow stronger and ensuring they are poised for success.”

The following school districts have been identified for funding, to support both traditional and public charter schools:

  • Bradford
  • Calhoun
  • DeSoto
  • Dixie
  • Glades
  • Gilchrist
  • Hamilton
  • Hardee
  • Holmes
  • Jackson
  • Jefferson
  • Lafayette
  • Levy
  • Liberty
  • Madison
  • Taylor
  • Union
  • Washington

On March 27, President Trump signed the CARES Act into law. This assistance for states includes more than $2 billion combined from the Education Stabilization Fund and childcare relief, supporting young Floridians birth through postsecondary. In its CARES Act plan, FDOE identified telehealth as a priority, and eligible districts will be able to use these funds for a number of purposes, including but not limited to the costs associated with accessing additional school-based mental health services (hired professionals or contracted providers); costs associated with enhancing telehealth access; costs for services that are not covered by existing resources; equipment necessary to provide services; tele-health platforms that enhance districts’ and schools’ ability to serve students; and other innovative approaches that support student mental health

For more information about Florida’s coordinated mental health initiative, Hope for Healing, please visit https://hopeforhealingfl.com/.

Photo: (AP)