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.

DCF Notice of Change to Rule 65D 30

The Department of Children and Families recently released the second Notice of Change/Withdrawl to the proposed rewrite of Rule 65D -30. The Notice of Change modifies some of the initial proposed rewrite as well as in the first Notice of Change. Here is the history of rule promulgation on this rule. The most recent release is a much smaller document than the previous two, indicating that the Department is beginning to “close out” some of the proposed items. To date, a Public Workshop has not been scheduled. Meanwhile, the Department adopted the final rule regarding Methadone Maintenance, along with the Fiscal Year 2018-19 Methadone Needs Assessment. However, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please feel free to contact Jill Gran ( or Sally Cunningham ( Here are two documents prepared by the association. The first document is a spreadsheet that outlines each change, and when the change was made, along with comments made by members of the association. The second document summarizes the second Notice of Change.

65D30 Rule Comments

65D30 Key Provisions to Changes in Rewrite

Tampa Bay Leaders Form Coalition To Address Mental Health Crisis

By Carrie Pinkard/WUSF Public Media

Tampa Bay area leaders gather at Glazer Family Center in Tampa to announce new mental health coalition.

In the Tampa Bay area, one in six people suffers from depression. One in twelve has a substance abuse disorder. And there is only one mental health professional for every 700 people in Florida. These are some of the statistics given Thursday to highlight the region’s need for more mental health coverage.

Leaders from organizations around the region gathered in Tampa to discuss a new initiative to address the mental health crisis. They announced that they’re forming a nonprofit called The West Central Florida Mental Wellness Coalition. While BayCare is the company leading the coalition, CEO Tommy Inzina said it will take a community effort for it to succeed. “We’re not in the school systems every day, we’re not dealing with everything law enforcement has to deal with, there’s a lot the business community can do,” said Inzina. “So we had this idea of creating a community coalition.”

Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco said police officers deal with the mental health crisis first-hand every single day. “Last year we handled 19,283 mental health calls. Approximately 11% of our calls for service are mental health related. We weren’t built for this. But we have to adapt because this is the environment,” he said.

The sheriff went on to say that deputies responded to over 2,000 suicide calls last year. He said one night he was dispatched to a suicidal person’s house and when he got there, the person just wanted someone to talk to.

Mental health is an issue in schools as well, according to Hillsborough County Assistant Superintendent Trayce Brown. “It is nothing for us to think about taking our students to the nurse for a physical ailment, but often times we don’t do the same thing for mental wellness,” she said. Brown said it’s important that schools feel equipped to get students the help they need, and that’s why the  school district is joining the coalition.

Barbara Daire, CEO of mental healthcare provider Suncoast Center, Inc. said the coalition is a dream come true for her. “It’s just so wonderful to have everyone really look at this very important issue because we have a lot of unhappiness and a lot of unsettled people in our community,” Daire said. “This has been a lifelong dream of mine. I see that this group is going to be able to raise awareness and break the stigma in a big way across four counties (Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, and Polk). “We could potentially be the model for the rest of the country.”

The West Central Florida Mental Wellness Coalition has three primary goals. They want to start a public awareness campaign to get people educated on the scope of the mental health issue, they want to increase urgent care access for behavioral health, and they want to provide resources for patients seeking mental health help.

The coalition has already raised a little over $5 million toward their goal of $7.5 million that they need to cover operating costs for the first five years.

BayCare is matching any donations given to the coalition. So far, companies like Advent Health, Florida Blue, and Tampa General Hospital have donated. Inzina said that the board for the nonprofit will be representative of all stakeholders. He said he hopes hospital systems, mental health providers, local businesses, law enforcement, and schools will be included. “This is not a BayCare initiative, it’s only going to be as successful as the support we can get.”

Opioid Resource Grant Program

Letters of Intent Due: August 15, 2019

Link: View Program Website
Sponsor: The AmerisourceBergen Foundation
Deadlines: July 15 – Aug 15, 2019

The AmerisourceBergen Foundation Opioid Resource Grant Program provides funding for innovative and constructive projects that address education, prevention, and/or the safe disposal of opioids. Priority will be given to community projects that address the key areas of focus:

  • Safe disposal management programs
  • Prevention education
  • Pilot programs for new ideas related to pre- and post-treatment activities

Eligibility: Eligible applicants are nonprofit organizations and coalitions that are not customers of AmerisourceBergen. Geographic coverage: Nationwide
Amount of funding: It is expected that the average grant size will be between $50,000 – $75,000.

Application process:
A link to application instructions is available on the program website. Submit an online letter of intent. Selected applicants will be invited to submit a full proposal.

Letters of intent will be accepted:
July 15 – August 15, 2019