Florida's First Lady working to meet mental health needs in schools

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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Stressors from Hurricane Michael are affecting people of all ages, and some of our youngest can pick up on their parents' frustrations.

Florida's First Lady Casey DeSantis announced on Thursday 63 tele-mental health portals are installed in every public school in Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Liberty, Franklin, and Jackson counties to provide mental health services to students. (WJHG/WECP)

"We had two elementary kids right before the end of the school year take a razor blade and try to slit their wrists on an elementary playground. Elementary-aged kids don't just come up with ideas like that," said Bay District Schools Superintendent Bill Husfelt.

But this school year there's now more mental health support in public schools for students in Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Liberty, Jackson, and Franklin counties to help them understand their emotions.

"Sixty-three tele-mental health portals will be deployed and available up and running on Monday," said Florida's First Lady Casey DeSantis.

The health portals will consist of a screen for students to chat with a mental health professional. There will be one portal in every school.

"We think there might be a layer of relaxation that comes because they're not necessarily in front of someone," said Husfelt.

"This is something that we hope will be a 21st-century approach to tackling the mental health crisis," said DeSantis.

This technology can also give parents the opportunity to understand how their child is feeling.

"The parent or legal guardian can also speak with their child and be part of that conversation by simply using their cellphone to be able to Facetime to be involved in that conversation about how best to get that student the help that they need," said DeSantis.

The provider can also send a summary of the session to the parent.

But school officials and Florida's First Lady Casey DeSantis understands fighting the mental health crisis isn't one size fits all.

"This is just one piece of the puzzle. We have a lot more that we need to do to make sure that people are getting the help they deserve," said DeSantis.

"We're doing everything we can to make our children feel safe, feel confident, and feel like hope is at the end of all this that we're dealing with," said Husfelt.

This portal is also compliant with HIPAA and students will speak to a mental health care provider in private.

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