Florida may be the Sunshine State, but it still faces difficulties that include widespread addiction and a shortage of mental-health clinicians. Here are some of the recent developments affecting behavioral health in Florida.
Most Florida Children Not Getting Mental Health Help
Although nearly 400,000 children in Florida need behavioral healthcare, as many as 55 percent don’t receive it, says health official Jeffrey Brosco. He reported to the Florida Healthy Kids Corp. Board of Directors that this equates to about one child in every classroom. One reason is that the state lacks enough behavioral health providers who treat children and adolescents.
Brosco hopes to use part of Florida’s “Title V” funding program, which supports the health of mothers and children, to help build regional collaboratives with state universities. These collaboratives would help increase the number of primary-care providers who can treat more common behavioral health concerns, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and anxiety.
Florida lawmakers recently approved a 2019-2020 state budget that includes $75 million for mental-health services at schools, up from $64 million for the current year. Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis also announced the “Hope for Healing” campaign, which will combine state agency resources to help prevent drug addiction and address mental-health issues in youth.
Florida Considers Rule Changes Involving Mental Health
Florida is considering changes to a rule regarding Medicaid coverage for behavioral health services for individuals not currently in the Medicaid managed-care program. According to Ben Browning, an executive at the Florida Association of Community Health Centers, current rules are unclear about whether clinical social workers and psychologists can bill Medicaid for therapy sessions. If accepted, the proposed changes would let these clinicians provide services in schools and other locations, potentially expanding access.
Florida Legislature Passes Bill Expanding Needle Exchange
Both the Florida House and the Florida Senate have passed the Infectious Disease Elimination Programs bill, which creates a way for counties to authorize needle exchange programs. The bill is now waiting for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to sign or veto it. The bill passed 111-3 in the House and unanimously in the Senate.
Under these programs, injection drug users can exchange used syringes for clean ones. Research shows that needle exchange programs can help reduce bloodborne diseases, including HIV and hepatitis C. However, Miami-Dade currently has the only legal needle exchange program in the state.
Authors of the Infectious Disease Elimination Programs referred to Miami-Dade’s program, called the IDEA Exchange, when creating their bill. Besides offering clean needles for dirty ones, the Miami-Dade program also provides naloxone, testing for HIV and hepatitis C, and connections to medical care and addiction treatment. Program leaders report that, in the last three years, more than a quarter million used needles have been removed from circulation and more than 1,000 overdoses have been prevented.
Behavioral Health EHR for Florida Providers
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