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Gov. Ron DeSantis has tense exchange with school board member during first lady's visit

Hillsborough County School Board member Karen Perez wanted to ask about funding for school counselors.

TAMPA, Fla. — During first lady Casey DeSantis' announcement of a new mental health and substance abuse initiative on Thursday, Gov. Ron DeSantis exchanged sharp words with a school board member attempting to ask a question.

While members of the press were asked to not go off topic during the Q&A session, the first question came from Hillsborough County School Board member Karen Perez. Perez began by describing the limited resources inside schools in regards to mental health.

Previous: Florida first lady Casey DeSantis takes on mental health issues

Gov. DeSantis then cut and ask, "what's your question?"

Perez told him, "I'm getting there."

"Well, no, you're not a member of the press," Gov. DeSantis said. "What is your question?"

Perez then said, "Our children need to..." before Gov. DeSantis interrupted her again, asking, "what is your question?"

"I'm getting to it," Perez said, before Gov. DeSantis told her, "No, you don't give a speech."

Finally, Perez said to the governor and first lady, "We need a promise from you that we can look forward to see an increase in funding."

Casey DeSantis then chimed back in saying, "Listen, I'll just say I am so honored and privileged to be in this position and for the first time in the history of this state, to bring agencies together to better address this issues."

Perez again tried to ask about funding before Casey DeSantis continued.

"We are going to take a look a quick look - a long look, really - at where the money is being spent, the nearly $2 billion that we're spending statewide on mental health and substance abuse," the first lady said. "And so if we see a need that's not being met, then I can tell you these agency heads are going to be some of the first people making sure that they're doing what they can to support children and families."

The governor and first lady were at Roland Park K-8 school in Tampa to announce the Hope for Healing program. Casey DeSantis plans to coordinate state agencies to look at existing mental health and substance abuse programs to see what works and what doesn't to see how state money can be better spent.

DeSantis is also working with private businesses to compile and print resource guides to be distributed statewide on where people can go for help with mental health and substance abuse issues. A website is also being developed to provide similar information.

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