Statewide Task Force on Opioid Abuse Meeting

Task Force Chair Attorney General Ashley Moody

The second meeting of the statewide task force on opioid abuse met on Thursday, November 21 at St. Leo University. The task force is chaired by Attorney General Ashley Moody. Council members include DACCO CEO Mary Lynn Ulrey and FBHA President Melanie Brown-Woofter.

The overarching purpose of the taskforce, as defined by executive order, is to research and assess the nature of opioid drug abuse in Florida and develop a statewide strategy to identify best practices to combat the opioid epidemic through education, treatment, prevention, recovery and law enforcement.

Read the Minutes from the first meeting on October 11, 2019.

The second meeting of the task force listened to reports on topics that included: Efficacy of MAT for Opioid Use Disorder, Narcan Administration by County, and ER to Warm-Handoff – What Happens after an Overdose?

Dr. Aaron Wohl, Medical Director, Lee Health System

To listen to the full second meeting of the Opioid Task Force you may click this link that takes you to The Florida Channel and locate Statewide Task Force on Opioid Abuse from 11/21.

New Medicaid Housing Assistance Pilot Program to Support Individuals with Serious Mental Illness and Substance Use Disorders

Read or Download Press Release Here

Melanie Brown-Woofter, President FBHA; AHCA Secretary Mary Mayhew

The Florida Behavioral Health Association (FBHA) was pleased to recently stand with Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary (AHCA) Mary Mayhew as she announced the new Medicaid Housing Assistance Pilot Program. This new program received federal approval earlier this year and will begin operations in December. The pilot program will launch in Medicaid Regions 5 and 7 in the counties of Pinellas, Pasco, Seminole, Orange, Osceola, and Brevard.

“Our community mental health and substance use disorder providers in the area are looking forward to working with AHCA and the participating health plans to provide housing assistance services to individuals with serious mental illness (SMI),” said FBHA President and CEO Melanie Brown-Woofter. “Individuals with SMI often find themselves homeless and without adequate resources to find even a temporary residence. This new housing assistance program will allow people enrolled in the program to have a  better opportunity to find a place to call home.”

At Lectern: Karen Koch, Florida Supportive Housing Coalition speaking at AHCA Housing Assistance Pilot Program Press Conference 11/21/19

One of the goals of the program is to help people find permanent housing. AHCA will measure the percentage of participants who achieve long-term housing as one of the performance metrics. Additional performance metrics include tracking the reduction of the days of homelessness, the number of enrolled people receiving medication-assisted treatment, and the reduction in the number of emergency room visits and inpatient hospital stays among participants.

AHCA Secretary Mayhew said, “In partnership with community providers, our Agency, through selected managed care plans, will address a major social determinant of health for individuals with mental illness or substance use disorder by focusing on efforts to support stable housing to improve their health outcomes and reduce preventable hospitalizations.”

Boley Centers is a community treatment provider with services in multiple locations including Pinellas County. Boley Centers currently offers several housing services and they are thrilled to have additional housing support assistance and funding through the Medicaid pilot program.

“This will assist us in helping people throughout Pinellas County,” said Boley Center CEO Gary MacMath. “We provide different types of housing based on individual needs. This is a great lifeline for people recovering from mental illnesses or who have re-occurring substance abuse problems.”

Aspire Health Partners in Orlando, Florida has behavioral health services across Medicaid Region 7. They assist all age groups from children and adolescents to adults and seniors.

“We are delighted that this program will enhance resources so that individuals can access much needed resources to address their mental illness and substance use disorder needs,” said Aspire Health Partners CEO Babette Hankey. “Focusing on removing barriers, particularly housing, will enable individuals to focus on their treatment needs, leading to more successful outcomes.”

The health plans participating in the Medicaid Housing Assistance Pilot Program include Aetna, Simply Healthcare, Staywell, and Magellan Complete Care.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission Report

A memorial garden for the 17 people killed in the Feb. 14, 2018, mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission released their state mandated 2nd report of findings and recommendations to a comprehensive approach to identifying and addressing issues presented by the tragedy that occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florid

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission- within the Florida Department of Law Enforcement-was established during the 2018 legislative session. The Commission was formed to specifically analyze information from the school shooting and other mass violence incidents in the state and address recommendations and system improvements.

FBHA staff overview of the full report as it relates to the mental health allocation, mental health services for children, threat assessment teams and juvenile detention may be read here.

Read the full Commission Report

The Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA)

OPPAGA released their report regarding CSU bed payments that was mandated in the 2019 Appropriations Act Implementing bill November 1. The OPPAGA findings conclude that the state’s Acute Care Services Utilization (ACSU) Database cannot accurately report final payment sources or final amounts paid to providers and does not accurately represent actual bed utilization by payer source. The report indicates that due to duplication, missing data, and quality errors, the FASAMS ACSU results on bed days should be viewed cautiously.  The report also points out high utilization of crisis beds for state funded beds (97% to 99% DCF funded) in FY 2019/20, exemplifying the need for recurring, stable funding. 

Read the full OPPAGA Report

The Child Guidance Center’s CAT Program Featured on Jacksonville News

By Action News Jax

Click Image to Watch Interview

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Mental health issues are some of the most challenging a person can face.

It’s especially true in children.

Christopher, 13, knows that struggle.

The middle schooler from Jacksonville lives with depression and has had suicidal thoughts.

“A long time ago, I was doing many bad things, and I was trying to run away from the house, and I tried to hurt myself,” he said.

Chris and his mom, Justine, shared their personal story with Action News Jax, hoping other families will recognize they’re not alone and take the difficult first step to get help.

Justine was nervous about talking to us on camera, so she read aloud a letter she wrote to lawmakers, praising the Child Guidance Center and its Community Action Team Program for helping her family survive their crisis.

The letter read:

“My name is Justine, I have 3 kids and a wife. Chris is 13, Carley is 11 and Carson is 8, and my wife’s name is Melissa. We were introduced to the CAT team roughly 8 or 9 months ago, by miss Allison a former therapist at Child Guidance, who Chris was seeing at the time. Miss Allison was an amazing therapist who thought it would be more beneficial to us for him to be put with the Cat team. We were told they come to the house and not only work with Chris but would work with the whole family. We were also told that they would also have more resources to better help my family with the crisis we were going through. They have done so much more than this. I never thought we would get the help we were so desperately needing until the CAT team came into our life. They are just amazing people and amazing at what they do. They have worked so hard with my family and have shown us so much support.”

Chris’ depression has led to behavioral issues.

With his mom’s permission, the 13-year-old sat down with Action News Jax reporter Paige Kelton. When asked about his biggest challenge

Chris answered, “Trying to get all the negative thoughts out of my head and just put the good ones in.”

He added, “Like, when I’m bored, I don’t have nothing to do, just sitting at the house, all the negative thoughts come into my head.” 

Helping Chris focus on the good thoughts, is Tashae Tate Miller, a therapist at The Child Guidance Center in Jacksonville.  

She worked with the boy and his family through the Community Action Team, which uses a wraparound approach, giving families 24/7 access to services, including guidance for parents.  

Miller said, “Kids can’t verbalize their emotions, and it’s hard for parents if they don’t know what to do, how to get it out.”

She added, “Getting that help, it not only helps kids, it helps the family as a whole.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6% of kids ages 12 to 17 have depression and almost 8 % have behavioral disorders. 

The CAT team uses mentors, nurses, therapists and case managers.

Funding is provided through the state.

The challenges come when families leave the program and are on their own.

“For most of the kids. that mentorship plays a role in helping get them through things, and if they don’t have that continued care, it’s hard,” said Miller.

We asked Chris if it was easier to talk to someone who is not a relative.

He replied, “Yes. ​​​I talk about what I shouldn’t have done and what I should have done, that helped me much better.” 

Chris and his family are still moving toward being a healthy, happy family. 

They now have the tools to get there.

When asked what he wanted most in life, the 13-year-old responded, “To grow up and be a better man.”

After hearing those words, Justine smiled broadly, tears in her eyes.

Chris’ therapist tells Action News Jax that what Chris and other kids like him need most are mentors but local programs have long waiting lists and strict guidelines for qualification.

According to the Kids Hope Alliance, there are 10 mentoring programs in Jacksonville.