Mental Health Getting Infusion of State Funds


Now comes the time when those who crafted Florida’s 2024-25 budget will be able to witness its first implementation. There can be no doubt that the embarrassment of the words, “FLORIDA IS 49th IN MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES,” weighed on the minds of those legislators as they labored.

Mental Gets a Nod

Thus urged to enable Florida‘s health services to keep pace with growing needs, the State Senate did come up with, and pass, a budget with some special nods to mental health. When Governor Ron DeSantis signed the fiscal legislation, there was $126 million in recurring revenue assigned to mental health. Although the entire state budget of  $115.9  billion was a decrease of 0.5 % from last year, there was $1.5 billion dubbed “Living Healthy.”

Closer examination

In close examination of the language and numbers in the legislation, it is important to know beforehand that the terms “behavioral health” and “mental health” often were used interchangeably, as they sometimes are in everyday speech. However similar they are though, they are not the same.  “Behavioral health” generally refers to mental health and substance use disorders, life stresses and crises, and stress-related physical symptoms. Back in 2022, the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service estimated that 23% (59.3 million) Americans had experienced, or were experiencing, some form of mental illness.

Meds + Therapy

Mental health is a subset of behavioral health. They may overlap. One difference is that mental health often is treated with medication and therapy. Behavioral health disorders may require a comprehensive approach that addresses environmental factors as well as societal issues. Examples of this will be cited further on in this article. Other differences between behavioral health and mental health may become clear as appropriate lines in the budget are discussed.

Media Carried Message

Besides “Florida is 49th,” what other messages hit the media that may have influenced creators of the mental health aspect of the budget?

“Nearly 2.9 million Florida adults, about 27% adults, about 17% of the population, have some form of mental illness.” -news6 streaming breaking news

“Florida faces a challenge with a scarcity of mental health professionals throughout the entire state.” –

Childhood Mental Health

On Google’s, there appeared an in-depth definition of mental health in children’s development:

“…ability to develop psychologically, emotionally, creatively, intellectually and spiritually; develop and sustain mutually satisfying personal relationships; use and enjoy solitude; become aware of others and empathize with them; play and learn; develop a sense of right and wrong; and resolve problems and setbacks and learn from them. Such definitions are useful as they relate to ‘societal’ expectations of children.” (HAS1995; Mental Health Foundation 1999)

Why Specialized

Here is an example of why specialized training is important, as mentioned above. The goal guidelines must be measured against the mores and values of  the particular “society” in which the child had been raised. For example, there are societies in which winning in competitions, including sports, is not held in high esteem; cooperation and helping others is more valued.

Also, during therapy in the aftermath of war, children have confessed to stealing, saying that they had been taught it was permissible. Some reported that “from the enemy” was included in this dispensation, as well as “food or whatever you need to stay alive.” This is a classic example of why it is necessary for therapists to be exceedingly well trained, to be equipped to understand. Learning the details reveals volumes about whether a patient is acting out, misbehaving, willfully committing a crime, or obeying the “sense of right and wrong” learned in childhood.

Social Media Ban

Further concern about the well-being of Florida youth brought about a bill that reined in social media.

From NBC NEWS: “Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signs bill that bans children under 14 from having social media accounts.”

(Immediately, red flags came out, warning that this bill would face challenges based on the First Amendment.)

Penalties Affixed

Effective January 2025, children 14 or 15 will need a parent’s consent. Social media companies must delete existing accounts of youngsters under 14, under penalty of $50,000 per violation.

“It is known,” NBC News continued, “social media negatively affects children‘s  mental health.”  Florida House Speaker Paul Renner and other advocates of the new law argued that social media can lead to a sexual predator communicating with minors. And in case further evidence is needed of the harm social media was doing, over 40 states filed a lawsuit in federal court against the owners of Facebook and Instagram. The final impetus for the legal action was  suicide, committed by both the performers and followers.

Why Florida?

To much of America–especially the northern states–Florida was a dream destination, a  place where roadside citrus fruit “grove stands” welcomed tourists with a free glass of orange juice fresh off a tree. Healthful symbol that it was, it meant glorious days in Florida’s nurturing sunshine, keeping fit in the ubiquitous swimming pools or golf courses (even in winter!), discarding stress by marveling at live “mermaids” performing underwater ballet at Weeki-Wachee Springs, wiggling your hips to Latin-inspired music like the “Miami Beach Rhumba,” being treated like royalty in luxurious seaside hotels that were embodiments of your very own fantasy Castle in Spain.

Thriving in Sunshine

Retirement  in Florida meant living longer and healthier. Some people didn’t want to wait till they retired. They put down their snow shovels, packed up their dreams and kids, and came here to live, to thrive in the sun. But somehow, through the years, unscreened sunshine turned out to be not exactly skin’s best friend, and orange trees turned out to be prey for insects and sudden freezes. Then the problems of the world caught up with Florida.

Covid Plus

Just to mention a few, there was, and still is, Covid, with its health threat, necessity for self-isolation followed by loneliness; social media bringing on anxiety, depression, thoughts of suicide, and then the horrendous act itself; substance abuse; drug dealing; homelessness; devastated neighborhoods; a cost of living that does not stop rising; an iffy, seasonal job market; red tide; the transgendering process suddenly interrupted and made unavailable; frequent violent hurricanes with attendant skyrocketing home and property insurance rates.

Anxiety, Depression

Above all loomed the specter of too few physical and mental health professionals to care for the estimated 32 % of adults in Florida who reported symptoms of anxiety and/or a depression disorder. (To the reader: Note how percentages and figures grow with each latest report.)

Meeting the Challenge

Live Healthy: Senate Passes Legislation Creating Behavioral Health Teaching Colleges

The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill SB330 by Sen. Jim Boyd (R-Bradenton) and championed by Senate president Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples)

A component of the Live Healthy package,  the Bill creates designation of behavioral health teaching hospitals for licensed teaching hospitals that partner with a state university school of medicine and offer specific behavioral health education programs.

Initially designated are Tampa General/affiliated with the University of South Florida; UF Health Shands/University of Florida; UF Health Jacksonville/University of Florida; and Jackson Memorial Hospital/University of Miami. Four additional may be designated between July 2025-27.


As stated at the outset of this blog, now the numbers have been crunched, fashioned into programs, and signed by the governor. The time has come for seeing whether the 2024-25 budget will–among other goals–pull Florida out of the “odious” 49th place in mental health services. (The pejorative “odious” was used by a candidate for office.)

Following is one posting from those who are critical of the budget’s scope :


“Tampa General Hospital president and CEO John Curtis said the legislative package would improve ‘access to health care in a reliable, reproducible, sustainable kind of way.’

“But while the Live Healthy package aims to modernize Florida’s understaffed and overburdened healthcare system, it does little for the uninsured, with Florida’s state leaders focussing largely on improvements for those who already have coverage and rejecting the one move that many advocates say would dramatically improve health care for hundreds of thousands of Floridians: expanding Medicare.

“Making Medicare more widely available by raising the threshold for government-provided health insurance largely remains anathema among Florida

Republicans, though some experts say their legislative agenda this session would be helped by expanding the program and drawing down billions of dollars in federal assistance.”

Now that both sides have spoken, both points of view addressed, it certainly would be an appropriate time to lift a glass of sunshine-colored orange juice and toast Florida…”To your health!”


(Note to readers: Some names of legislators sponsoring or criticizing the healthcare bill have been mentioned in this report. For those interested, a full list of the sponsors is available at Release/Show/453.



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