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News & Press: Behavioral Health

Mental Health Resources for Youth Signed into Law

Monday, March 12, 2018  
Posted by: Rebecca Roberts
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For Immediate Release:

Gov. Rick Scott Signs Historic Legislation to Empower Schools to Provide Mental Health Resources

Tallahassee, FL (March 9, 2018) – Advocates throughout Florida’s mental health community applauded Governor Rick Scott for signing historic legislation empowering schools to connect students to needed mental health resources in their community.

Senate Bill 7026 requires schools to establish school-based mental health plans including public awareness programs, crisis intervention teams and a referral process for students to get more intensive services.

“We’d like to thank Gov. Rick Scott for signing this historic legislation and thank legislative leaders for recognizing the importance of addressing the mental health needs of students,” said Melanie Brown Woofter, President and CEO of the Florida Council for Community Mental Health. “This bill provides our state with a tremendous opportunity for early intervention in schools and local communities and is a first step to better understand and help address the mental health needs of Florida’s youth.”

In all, $104 million is set aside under a new Mental Health Assistance Allocation for school districts. Among other items, funding is allocated for mobile crisis units and Community Action Teams that can respond more quickly when a young person is in crisis.

The new law will require school districts to develop a comprehensive plan to collaborate with
community providers to deliver mental health services to students.

“We hope it will build stronger connections between school districts and community providers to more effectively serve young people with a mental health or substance abuse challenge,” said Mark Fontaine, CEO of the Florida Behavioral Health Association.

NAMI Florida (National Alliance on Mental Illness), the nation’s largest organization for individuals and families affected by mental illness, says the new law elevates the discussion around mental illness and can help reduce the stigma that often prevents students from seeking help.

“This law paves the way for an open, honest dialogue among schools, students, and families around mental health needs and how young people can get help,” said Alisa LaPolt, NAMI Florida Executive Director. “This can potentially be life-changing for many students.”

About 50 percent of all lifetime cases of mental illness have symptoms that appear as early as age 14. But it takes on average 8 to 10 years for a diagnosis and treatment, according to the National Institute for Mental Health.

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About NAMI Florida: NAMI Florida is the state affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness with headquarters in Tallahassee, Florida. With twenty-seven affiliates in communities across Florida, NAMI provides education, advocacy, and support groups for people with mental illnesses and their loved ones. NAMI Florida works with state and federal agencies and elected officials to promote recovery and improved treatment for individuals who have a mental illness and their families. NAMI Florida also works collaboratively with other statewide organizations to achieve a better mental health system for all Florida’s citizens. To learn more about NAMI Florida, visit

About the Florida Council for Community Health: The Florida Council for Community Mental Health is a statewide association of over 50 community-based mental health and substance abuse agencies. Council member agencies serve the majority of the nearly 240,000 adults and children receiving publicly-funded mental health and substance abuse services in Florida. Most clients served are adults with serious and persistent mental illness, children with severe emotional disturbance, adults with long-term addictions and children who are substance abusers or at risk of abusing substances. Mental agencies provide a range of services, including emergency services, residential treatment, outpatient services and rehabilitation and support services.

About the Florida Behavioral Health Association: The mission of the Florida Behavioral Health Association is to provide leadership and to unite individuals and business entities engaged directly or indirectly in behavioral health and behavioral medicine to promote and protect the mutual interests of its members and the behavioral health industry.