Thursday's listening sessions were 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.
DeSantis said she wants a statewide initiative, a collaboration to not only deal with substance abuse and addiction but the root causes of mental health issues which often lead to that abuse.
"We want to see what parts of the state might be more prone to depression, or schizophrenia and make sure we're deploying our resources and communicating so we're addressing that problem," DeSantis said.
First Lady DeSantis also announced the formation of a drug abuse prevention panel with Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma to serve as chair. The focus of the panel will be to discuss and determine best practices and innovative solutions to combat drug abuse throughout the state, specifically as it pertains to Florida’s youth.
“I am excited to announce the formation of a new drug abuse prevention panel and I thank Sheriff Dennis Lemma for his willingness to serve as chair of this important initiative,” said DeSantis “As we enter the school year, we want to make sure that kids know how dangerous drugs can be, as well as what they should do if someone in their home is using drugs. We will continue to confront these challenges head on and I look forward to working with leaders from around the state to determine how we can better serve those in need.”
DeSantis' listening session included a host of top officials around the state, including Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Mary Mayhew, Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Simone Marstiller, Representative Cyndi Stevenson, Representative Scott Plakon, Orange County Sheriff John Mina, Department of Children and Families Chief of Staff David Mica, as well as stakeholders and community leaders from the Orlando area.
Sheriff Lemma was also in attendance at today's listening session. Lemma has over 25 years of experience in law enforcement. Aside from serving as Seminole's Sheriff, much of Lemma's experience is intertwined with young people. He began his career with the Sheriff’s Office in 1992 as a Correctional Officer. He went on to serve as a School Resource Deputy and a Crimes Against Children Investigator.
Without question, Lemma's experience dealing with the youth in Florida's educational system was appealing to the DeSantis administration. His selection was well-received among local officials, and he thanked the First Lady for choosing him to spearhead the new group.
“It was a pleasure having First Lady DeSantis at the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office today and I am honored to chair her new drug abuse prevention panel,” said Sheriff Lemma. “The collective IQ of a group is always stronger than that of an individual and through increased collaboration being spearheaded by the First Lady, I am confident we will find meaningful solutions to these challenges facing Floridians.”
Governor DeSantis’ Bold Vision for a Brighter Future Budget included nearly $2 billion in substance abuse prevention and mental health funding. Included in that package is $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 allocated $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, click HERE.