Florida First Lady announces millions are on the way to the Panhandle


CALLAWAY, Fla. — Florida’s First Lady stood inside the Callaway Fire Department, announcing five new plans, all with a hope to tackle issues like housing and mental health.

Casey Desantis addressing issues she says are close to her heart during a press conference on Wednesday morning. “Many of you know, I’ve made mental health and substance abuse a priority of mine.”

Through the hope for healing initiative, Desantis says many agencies will be working together. “Where are the resources going? Are they meaningful? Are we seeing results for the people who need them most?”

She says over three million dollars is coming to Hurricane Michael impacted areas. “For our precious children, many of whom we still know are suffering in the wake of Michael. We are announcing the installation of Telehealth for Mental Health Services in all public schools in Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Franklin, and Liberty Counties.” DeSantis says the proper agencies will be working to ensure this plan starts at the beginning of the 2019 / 2020 school year. DCF will work with local school districts over the coming weeks to ensure these services are available by the start of the school year.

Her second announcement, she says will help all people in need. “In coordination with our Federal partners, the Florida Department of Children and Families will receive an additional $2.3 million dollars to expand outreach services through the Crisis Counseling Program,” said DeSantis.

Photo Courtesy: Governor’s Press Office

Bay district schools is also receiving $1.25 million dollars. DeSantis says the money will be used, to help improve mental health through the expansion of licensed school social workers, para-professionals to support the existing counselors that are in place.”

Her fourth announcement, The Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) will be creating and hiring the new position of Director of Mental Health Response and Recovery. Following a disaster, this person will be deployed to an affected area to ensure people understand and utilize mental health support services quickly. DeSantis says this person’s first stop will be Bay County.

The First Lady’s announcement covered housing. She says 100 FEMA trailers will be divided into Bay and Jackson counties. Bay County will receive 80 and Jackson County will get 20. FDEM has donated the travel trailers to counties upon their request.

“The Governor and I continue our commitment to helping the good folks of Northwest Florida get back on their feet. We fully understand there’s a lot of work that still needs to be done, and we’re here for the long haul,” said First Lady Casey DeSantis. “To those still suffering in the wake of Hurricane Michael, you have not been forgotten. This is just as much about rebuilding the physical destruction as it is healing the invisible wounds and trauma caused by the storm. Today’s announcements from across our state agencies and federal partners will provide much-needed support as we work to make our communities whole again and come back stronger than ever.”

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