Kelli Stargel most proud of mental health funding increases
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 3/4/22-House Appropriations Chair Jay Trumbull, R-Panama City, left, and Senate Appropriations Chair Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, during the first appropriations conference meeting, Friday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

'When all the dust settles, we're going to look back at this budget and think we really focused on the priorities.'

Sen. Kelli Stargel is the Senate’s top budget negotiator in the 2022 Session, which allows her to include funding for programs and initiatives she thinks are the most beneficial for the state.

On Monday, Stargel did not hesitate when asked what spending decision made her most proud: $126 million in recurring general revenue and more than $50 million in one-time spend for community mental health and substance abuse disorder services.

Stargel and House Budget Chairman Rep. Jay Trumbull said the funding addresses unmet needs in the area. Trumbull went even further, adding: “I think you can continue to appropriate that kind of money in mental health, and I think, won’t catch up with the issue.”

Stargel said the spending on mental health funding, along with the large infusion into Moffitt Cancer Center, will pay dividends.

“If we can help people who are suffering from cancer, if we can help people struggling with mental health issues, and then when we give everyone opportunities, and you saw that through our entire budget. At the end of the day, when all the dust settles, we’re going to look back at this budget over the next few years and think we really focused on the priorities.”

The Florida Behavioral Health Association said in a statement Monday that the money will help community providers as they treat children and adults, fight the opioid epidemic, and soothe the pain and trauma of mental health crises.

“This recurring funding is the largest increase for services that we have seen in decades. It is key to ensuring that innovative, transformative care is available for Florida’s families in need — the impact is immediate and long-lasting,” said FBHA President and CEO Melanie Brown-Woofter.

Woofter, in the statement, thanked Senate President Wilton Simpson, House Speaker Chris Sprowls, and Gov. Ron DeSantis for helping to lead the charge on mental health and well-being for all Floridians.

“The FBHA looks forward to (the Governor’s) support when signing the budget,” Brown-Woofter.

Christine Jordan Sexton

Tallahassee-based health care reporter who focuses on health care policy and the politics behind it. Medicaid, health insurance, workers’ compensation, and business and professional regulation are just a few of the things that keep me busy.


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