Florida's First Lady announces new mental health campaign in our area

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CALLAWAY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Florida's First Lady is launching a new campaign called Hope for Healing.

Officials say mental health and substance abuse are a big problem in our area, especially since Hurricane Michael, but Florida's First Lady is trying to change that. (WJHG/WECP)

As she visited hurricane-ravaged Callaway, she said hope is on the way in the form of new programs under one roof, all aimed at addressing mental health.

"That leads me here today with five announcements that I want to make to help this community along with these good people behind me," said First Lady Casey DeSantis.

First, DeSantis says more mental health support is coming to local schools.

"The installation of telehealth for mental health services in all public schools in Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Franklin, and Liberty Counties," she said.

Desantis says this will serve more that 35,000 students.

Second, more help is on its way to the Department of Children and Families so it can reach more locals in need.

"The Florida Department of Children and Families will receive and additional $2.3 million to expand outreach services through the crisis counseling program," said DeSantis.

Third, more money is coming to Bay County schools to hire more staff trained to address children in need.

"One point two five million dollars from the U.S. Department of Education to help improve mental health through the expansion of licensed school social workers and paraprofessionals to support the existing counselors that are in place," said DeSantis.

Fourth, the Division of Emergency Management will immediately hire a Director of Mental Health Response and Recovery.

"This position does not currently exist, this is a person that will be deployed to the affected areas across the state to understand mental health support services to provide those to the people in the community quickly," said DeSantis.

Fifth, she announced 100 more FEMA trailers are coming to the area, as hurricane victims still struggle to find a place to live.

"We understand that this does not permanently solve the problem. We hope to provide additional temporary housing solutions and different options for residents," said DeSantis.

Hope for Healing is designed to bring a wide range of services to locals, from mental health to substance abuse, at a time when they need it most.

"We're gonna be back and making sure that everybody here is getting back on their feet," said DeSantis.

The First Lady also encouraged any locals in need of immediate counseling services to utilize the federal Disaster Distress Helpline provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which provides immediate crisis counseling 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The number is 1-800-985-5990 or Text TalkWithUs to 66746.

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