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Casey DeSantis discusses a new rule mandating five hours of mental health education for middle and high school students.

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Casey DeSantis stumps for mental health, substance abuse help

“Children are getting lost in that system.”

First Lady Casey DeSantis was in Jacksonville Monday, spotlighting efforts in dealing with mental health and substance abuse issues in schools, and rolling out policy changes.

One of those initiatives will be rolled out Wednesday at a State Board of Education meeting by Commissioner Richard Corcoran.

A new rule for mental and emotional health will require five hours of mental health training for students in middle and high schools in addition to staff.

This is a “good first step among many,” Mrs. DeSantis said.

Corcoran called it a “first step in mental health awareness” and something that can “save lives,” likening it to CPR training that could help students identify issues with their peers.

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Mrs. DeSantis, Corcoran, and a number of other stakeholders held a closed-to-press “listening session” at a Northside Jacksonville high school before discussing policy.

For the First Lady, it is clear that there will be more of these in the next three-plus years, as she spent some time outlining her personal stake in the matter.

After a brief period to “step back and listen” early in her husband’s term, DeSantis realized “very quickly” that mental health and substance abuse would be focuses.

DeSantis described these as “big problems across the state,” saying that the need to address these issues is akin to the administration’s focus on the environment.

“This is an investment in the people of the state,” the First Lady said. “It’s just the right thing to do.”

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DeSantis touted the Hope for Healing Initiative, a multiagency collaboration designed to remove “silos” and “get accountability for the nearly $2 billion we are spending annually on mental health and substance abuse.”

Among the intersections of those: Opioid overdoses, which take the lives of 17 people a day.

“Children are getting lost in that system,” DeSantis said, suggesting potential collaborations with “the faith-based community.”

“In order to make sure we’re doing the right things to fix the problem, we have to understand where the problem is,” DeSantis said.

“Shining a spotlight” on mental health and substance abuse will, DeSantis asserted, help to de-stigmatize the conditions.

With one in five Floridians under the age of 25 having had a mental health condition, many of them having suicidal ideations, expect some policy movement.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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