“I was proud to be in Northwest Florida this morning to announce the installation of these portals that will bring the necessary mental health services that our students need and deserve,” said DeSantis.“While this is an innovative, 21st century approach and a promising start to tackling the mental health crisis, we understand that this is just one piece of the puzzle. We want to make sure that people realize that hope is on the horizon and at the end of the day this community will be made whole.”
DeSantis first announced that the portals would be coming to Northwest Florida during a visit to Callaway Fire Station in June and returned to Bay High School today to provide updates on the progress of the plan. Each school will receive one portal which will be centrally located for easy access.
Students will need to receive a referral from a guidance counselor, as well as a written consent from a parent or legal guardian before being administered any treatment. With both conditions met, students will have the opportunity to speak one-on-one in private with a mental health service provider who will assess, diagnose, and if necessary, begin to treat the student. Parents will have the ability to call into the session via a mobile app or receive a summary from the provider following the session if they are unable to participate. This will be in full compliance with all HIPPA laws.
Joining the First Lady at Bay High School for today’s announcement were Department of Children and Families (DCF) Secretary Chad Poppell, Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) Secretary Mary Mayhew, Representative Jay Trumbull, Representative Jason Shoaf, Bay County Schools Superintendent Bill Husfelt and Department of Education Chancellor for K-12 Public Schools Jacob Oliva.
“By introducing telehealth portals in Panhandle schools, Governor DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis are once again demonstrating their unwavering dedication to quality mental health care access,” said Poppell. “DCF is proud to join them in this effort, ensuring that all Floridians feel safe and comfortable getting the help they need, when they need it.”
“The installation of these telehealth services for public schools in these six Northwest Florida counties will be a valuable resource that students can turn to for their immediate mental health needs,” said Mayhew. “I commend Governor DeSantis, the First Lady and the Department of Children and Families for swiftly taking action to support the residents of Northwest Florida – who have already shown such incredible perseverance – with this critical access to rehabilitative health care technology.”
Shoaf, who was recently elected to serve House District 7 -- which includes many of the counties receiving portals -- experienced the devastation brought on by the Category 5 Hurricane. He believes the portals will bring further awareness to issues that continue to linger in parts of the district he now represents.
"I'm proud to support First Lady Casey DeSantis in bringing both awareness and the tools needed to help our children," Shoaf told The Florida Report. "Mental health services are especially needed after a natural disaster and it's great that our First Lady is championing this issue."
DCF has been working with vendors to ensure the portals are ready for the start of school on August 12.