House embraces mental health commission proposal

Nearly one in five adults, or 51.5 million people, live with a mental illness.

The House unanimously approved a bill Wednesday to create a commission to study mental health and substance abuse issues in Florida.

The bill (HB 1447), sponsored by Democratic Rep. Christine Hunschofsky, would create a 19-member Mental Health and Substance Abuse Commission. According to a staff analysis, the commission would examine the state’s mental health and substance abuse services and offer recommendations.

“While this bill is very personal to me, it is also good public policy,” Hunschofsky said. “We all know the we have a mental health criss in our state that has only been exacerbated by COVID.”

In Feb. 2019, Gov. Ron DeSantis called for a grand jury to investigate school district safety measures after the 2018 Parkland shooting. Among the grand jury’s recommendations: a mental health commission.

According to a staff analysis, the Governor, Senate President and House Speaker would appoint the commission members. The commission must convene by Sept. 1 and consist of representatives from a variety of backgrounds.

Mental illness and substance abuse are a growing concern in the Sunshine State, ranking high on First Lady Casey DeSantis‘ professional agenda and the medical community.

The Florida Association of Managing Entities applauded the passage.

“Florida’s Managing Entities have been on the forefront of care coordination in Florida to treat individuals’ complex and diverse mental health and substance use issues, and their participation on this commission will help improve behavioral health services for all Floridians,” said Florida Association of Managing Entities CEO Natalie K. Kelly.

Mental illness affects millions of people in the United States each year, the staff analysis adds.

Nearly one in five adults, or 51.5 million people, live with a mental illness. According to a staff analysis, roughly 13.1 million adults have a serious mental illness.

“Mental health is a cancer in our community and we need to fix the system we have in place,” said Democratic Rep. Marie Woodson.

Notably, many people are diagnosed with more than one mental illness.

“For example, people who suffer from a depressive illness (major depression, bipolar disorder, or dysthymia) tend to co-occur with substance abuse and anxiety disorders,” the staff analysis explains.

Sen. Lauren Book is carrying the Senate version (SB 1888).

The bill would take effect upon becoming law.

Jason Delgado

Jason Delgado covers news out of the Florida State Capitol. After a go with the U.S. Army, the Orlando-native attended the University of Central Florida and earned a degree in American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. He'd love to hear from you. You can reach Jason by email ([email protected]) or on Twitter at @byJasonDelgado.


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