The 20th statewide Florida Supreme Court grand jury recently released a report outlining how to address the mental health epidemic plaguing Florida’s students.
In response to the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the report critically examines how mental health is being addressed — and applauds the passage of a bill sponsored by Rep. David Silvers for taking proactive steps toward doing so.
The report specifically praises the 2020 bill (HB 945) for creating a committee to examine the mental health care needs of children between various state agencies, including the Department of Children & Families, and for making “every effort to ensure that all relevant stakeholders have an opportunity to participate and provide knowledge.”
As of a 2016 study by the National Alliance of Mental Illness, more than 841,000 Floridians are living with a serious mental illness. More than 20% of them are children.
And that was before COVID-19 disrupted daily life and normal routines.
A recent Texas A&M study found 71% of students say their stress and anxiety levels have spiked during the pandemic. They are also struggling with feelings of isolation due to a lack of social interactions.
“Students have been reporting an increase in mental illness for decades, and we’ve failed in addressing the problem correctly in recent years,” Silvers said. “Adding COVID-19 and not being able to socialize or not having that structure that so many neurodivergent people rely on only underscores the importance of addressing the growing epidemic that is mental illness in our children.”
HB 945 requires DCF and the Agency for Health Care Administration to identify children and adolescents who most often use crisis stabilization services and work to meet their behavioral health needs.
The bill also requires the development of protocols for mobile response teams to de-escalate behavioral health events so that students are less likely to experience a traumatic mental health medical evaluation through the Baker Act.