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.

Governor’s Budget Proposals Include $54 Million to Opioid Crisis and $17 Million in New MH and SA Funding

Governor Ron DeSantis

Governor Ron DeSantis is recommending $54.8 million be used to fight the opioid epidemic in Florida. Part of that funding, a little over $12 million, will come from federal dollars in the form of the State Opioid Response Grant already targeted for evidence-based prevention, medication-assisted treatment, and recovery.

The Governor is also recommending an increase of over $17 million in new funding for behavioral health. A portion of the new dollars are allocated for the expansion of Community Action Teams (CATs) and the creation of nine new CATs in the following locations: Alachua, Citrus/Hernando, Polk/Highlands/Hardee, Orange, Walton, Brevard, Pasco, and Marion.

The Governor’s total budget recommendations are $91.4 billion. One of the most notable additions is an increase to teachers’ salaries with a cost of about $600 million.

View the full Bolder, Brighter, Better Future Budget here.

US Representatives Highlight Florida Program in Fight Against Opioids to HHS

By U.S. Congressman John Rutherford, from Rutherford Roundup 11/8

Read Full Letter and Signatures Here

I recently led a letter with my colleague Rep. Charlie Crist to Health and Human Services (HHS) highlighting Florida’s leadership in combatting the opioid crisis. Our state-run wraparound programs provide education and funding for treatment services that have lowered opioid overdoses, relapses, and deaths. Because of this success, we are asking HHS to use our state’s innovative model as an example for fighting the opioid crisis throughout the U.S.

Study: Supervision of Peer Support Workers

Survey Link

Researchers in the University of South Florida’s Department of Psychiatry and at Magellan Health are conducting a survey that aims to investigate the backgrounds, training, and experiences of individuals who currently supervise at least one peer support worker in a behavioral health setting or agency.  According to the researchers, this will be the first comprehensive research study of the landscape of peer support supervision practices in the United States.

WHO: Researchers for the survey are seeking participants at least 18 years or older who work in the United States or US territories, and currently supervise at least one peer support worker.

WHY: To better understand the landscape of peer support worker supervision in the United States, including supervisors’ backgrounds, training and preparation for supervision, perspectives and practices, and views on barriers and facilitators to high-quality supervision.  Existing research on this important topic is scarce. 

WHAT: An online survey lasting approximately 10 minutes. Participants will be asked open and close-ended questions about their training, supervision experiences and practices, and related views. 

COMPENSATION: There is no compensation for participation in the survey.

PROTOCOL NUMBER: For reference, the study protocol number is # 00040223

HOW: Contact the study’s primary investigator, Nev Jones, at, the co-primary investigator, Dana Foglesong at or access the survey at this link:

Behavioral Health Day Helps Bring Mental Illness and Substance Use Disorder Awareness to State Capitol

Speakers Included Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis and AHCA Secretary Mary Mayhew

Behavioral Health advocates gathered on the 22nd floor of the Capitol on Wednesday, October 16, to raise awareness for mental illness and substance use disorders. The event brought together state leaders who addressed Florida’s mental health challenges and attendees who shared their personal stories on living with mental health conditions. One of the guest speakers included First Lady Casey DeSantis.

“The First Lady remains committed to helping people with a mental illness or a substance use disorder,” said Melanie Brown-Woofter, President and CEO of the Florida Behavioral Health Association. “Today she announced Florida’s first statewide Disaster Recovery Mental Health Coordinator will be deployed to Northwest Florida to assist in coordinating mental health services for the area most affected by Hurricane Michael. We applaud these efforts and the entire Hope for Healing Campaign and look forward to working with her on finding meaningful behavioral health solutions for both children and adults.”

This year’s Behavioral Health Day theme was “Well. Beyond Healthcare,” because healthcare is more than just physical health or a trip to the doctor’s office. Mental health and mental illness are vital aspects of healthcare. Research shows that one in five adults will experience depression, anxiety, or any mental illness within a given year. Additionally, one in six children will experience a mental health disorder each year. These statistics underscore the need to educate the public about the prevalence of mental illness and the resources available to help people live with a mental health condition.

“The ability to talk about mental illness is a necessary step to break the stigma associated with these behavioral health conditions,” said Irene Toto, CEO of Clay Behavioral Health Center. “Today, as part of Behavioral Health Day, we’re talking about mental illness. Today, we’re talking about substance abuse disorders, but we want people to be able to talk about this any time. We want them to know they are not alone and it’s okay not to be okay.”

In addition to speakers and attendees, the event attracted more than a dozen collaborative partners representing mental health organizations, law enforcement, recovery organizations, housing and peer support coalitions, and other state associations. At the conclusion of the speakers’ remarks, guests were able to continue sharing their stories in the second-floor rotunda of the Capitol.

First Meeting of Statewide Taskforce on Opioid Abuse

Opioid Task Force

Florida’s new Statewide Taskforce on Opioid Abuse held their first monthly meeting in October. Governor Ron DeSantis established the Opioid Taskforce by Executive Order 19-97 earlier this year. Attorney General Ashley Moody serves as committee chair. The twenty-one member committee also includes FBHA member Mary Lynn Ulrey, CEO of DACCO, 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.

More specifically, the taskforce is to study the cost of the crisis on state and local governments, identify available programs that have been successful in combating opioid abuse, work to better understand the sources of addiction, explore whether there is need for additional regulatory activity, evaluate and identify ways to reduce the demand for opioids and decrease the supply, and determine if law enforcement would benefit from new training or resources to help equip them to handle opioid users.

During the first meeting, the members listened to reports on the current state of Florida’s opioid crisis. They also selected Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma as the new Vice-Chair of the committee. He was instrumental in the Opioid Work Study Group Report that helped to create the new Opioid taskforce.

To listen to the full first meeting of the Opioid Task Force you may click this link that takes you to the recording from The Florida Channel: Statewide Taskforce on Opioid Abuse Meeting