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Here’s how Florida will spend $23 million in CARES Act funding on mental health

The Florida Department of Children and Families is breaking down which mental health initiatives will get the most funding.
Credit: Florida Department of Children and Families

TAMPA, Fla. — The Florida Department of Children and Families is now explaining how it will spend $23,224,000 in CARES Act funding on mental health. 

After Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Dec. 11 that the state would spend $23 million in CARES Act funding on mental health services, 10 Investigates sent DCF a public records request for a breakdown of how that money would be spent.

DCF sent 10 Investigates this memo:

"Due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, additional mental health funding is welcome and needed. We have seen an increase in demand for mental health and substance use services because of the pandemic, and it is important to have the capacity to continue to meet these demands,” Florida Behavioral Health Association Director of Marketing and Communications Mary Katherine Delegal told 10 Investigates, after reviewing the memo.

Here are the three mental health initiatives that will get the most funding:

1. FACT (Florida Assertive Community Treatment) Teams

The memo shows one of the largest expenditures will be $4,200,000 to expand DCF’s FACT Teams to serve 300 more adult patients in the community after discharge or commitment.

According to DCF, FACT Teams provide care to people where they live, work, go to school, or spend their leisure time “in an effort to promote independent, integrated living for individuals with serious psychiatric disabilities.” The goal is to keep patients in the community and keep them out of Baker Act facilities, emergency rooms, and jails.

In Florida, people can temporarily be involuntarily committed for mental health treatment under the Baker Act if they are likely to imminently harm themselves or others.

2. Care Coordination

Another $4,200,000 will be spent on increasing the role of care coordination for children and parents with behavioral needs in the child welfare system.

The money will also go to increasing care coordination for adult and child patients discharged from Baker Act facilities, emergency rooms or jails who don’t qualify for FACT or CAT (Community Action Treatment) Team services.

3. CAT (Community Action Treatment) Teams

DCF will spend $3,750,000 to expand CAT Teams to serve 375 more children.

According to the agency, CAT Teams are multi-disciplinary clinical teams that provide community-based treatment to families with kids and young adults, ages 11-21, who are at risk of out-of-home placement because of a mental health or co-occurring substance abuse issues.

The goal is to keep those young people in the community and keep them out of Baker Act facilities, emergency rooms, and jails.

The Florida Behavioral Health Association, whose members are community mental health and substance use disorder treatment providers, tells 10 Investigates it’s satisfied with how DCF is spending the CARES Act funding.

“Adding funds to the CAT, FIT [Family Intensive Treatment] and FACT teams is both effective and cost-efficient. These important dollars allow these teams to serve additional children, adults and families in a timely manner,” said Delegal. “Increasing resources in communities are essential for people who need more intensive and long-term services.” 

On Dec. 10, a Grandy Jury report labeled Florida’s mental health care system a “mess.”

The Grandy Jury was formed in 2019 at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ request after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018.

“To put it bluntly, our mental health care ‘system’ – if one can even call it that – is a mess,” the report read.

The next day, on Dec. 11, Gov. DeSantis announced the $23 million in CARES Act funding for mental health services.

On Dec. 17, 10 Investigates uncovered some DCF-run mental health hospital employees were working an average of 80 hours every week. You can check out our investigation, Understaffed and Overworked, here. 

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