Natalie Kelly: The importance of behavioral health services during this pandemic

suicide prevention
It’s hard to ignore a problem that has led 1 in 4 young adults to seriously consider suicide in the last 30 days.

National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month comes on the heels of a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report showing the terrible toll that COVID-19 has taken on Americans’ mental health.

It’s hard to ignore a problem that has led 1 in 4 young adults — 25% of survey respondents between ages 18 and 24 — to seriously consider suicide in the last 30 days.

According to the CDC, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, and the Florida Department of Health reports that it is number 8 in Florida.

Our state’s behavioral health care safety net system consists of seven Managing Entities, which are local, not-for-profit organizations that work closely with a network of over 300 behavioral health care providers. These providers deliver behavioral health care services to more than 300,000 of Florida’s most vulnerable residents, including children, expectant mothers, veterans, and the chronically homeless.

Providers meet patients’ diverse needs with “wraparound services” that not only address mental health issues and substance abuse, but also assist with housing, transportation, and employment.

Community boards administer, manage, and ensure accountability of state and federal funds for behavioral health services, working locally to keep oversight and accountability closest to the people they serve. He

The Florida Association of Managing Entities (FAME) represents Florida’s seven Managing Entities. As FAME helps raise awareness about suicide prevention, I am grateful that First Lady Casey DeSantis has long prioritized mental health and recovery.

From the very start of her husband’s term as Governor, DeSantis has championed mental health services from recognizing the “overwhelming need for behavioral health services” to help Floridians struggling with mental illness and substance abuse by steering them toward the path to recovery.

From her Hope for Healing Florida initiative to her steadfast support of funding for behavioral health services, including a recent $1.9 million federal emergency grant specifically for those impacted by COVID-19, DeSantis has proved to be a beacon of light for Floridians who desperately depend on behavioral health services so they may lead healthy, successful lives.

We must continue to destigmatize mental illness, to fund effective behavioral health services, and to make sure that we are providing every Floridian with the assistance they need to live to their full potential. Especially during this unimaginably stressful time, we owe it to our families, our friends, our neighbors, and our communities.


Natalie Kelly is CEO of the Florida Association of Managing Entities (FAME), the statewide organization for the seven regional Managing Entities that, on behalf of the State of Florida, administer state and federal funds to a network of over 300 behavioral health providers across the state. Kelly centers her leadership around FAME’s mission to advance the recovery of individuals and their families.

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