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Florida Behavioral Health: Housing part of mental health treatment


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Top Gov. Ron DeSantis administration officials tout the significant spending increases Florida has made for mental health funding.

The administration also promoted its successes with housing programs meant to help people with serious mental health conditions successfully live, work and play in the community in which they live.

Department of Children and Families Secretary Shevaun Harris said the Legislature has, in recent years, increased the amount of recurring state dollars spent on housing for people with serious mental health illness.

“Thanks to the Governor and our legislative partners, the state of Florida, particularly the department, has seen a tremendous amount of investments specifically in addressing homelessness and housing supports,” Harris said at the press conference called by the Florida Behavioral Health Association to bring awareness to housing issues.

“We’ve seen a 308% increase between state Fiscal Year 22-23 and state Fiscal Year 23-24, increasing our funding from $6.1 million to $25.2 million, respectively.”

Harris said the funds are being spent on improving shelter operations, rental and mortgage assistance, utility assistance, rapid rehousing programs and transportation costs.

“This funding is recurring, and within we hope to continue to use it to address a variety of needs, including providing evidence-based supportive housing services, that can ensure that someone with serious and persistent mental illness can remain housed. Many individuals with serious mental illness and co-occurring substance use disorder (need) support throughout their lifetime to maintain housing and employment,” she said.

May is mental health awareness month. FBHA President and CEO Melanie Brown-Woofter held the press conference to “shine the light on the importance of housing and health care, and the integration of housing and addressing the social determinants of health in the work we do,” she said.

The treatment of serious mental health illness and other mental health issues has evolved over the years, first with integrating mental health with substance abuse and, more recently, integrating primary care with mental health and substance abuse treatment, Brown-Woofter said.

“The next logical step is to address housing. Because we know that when individuals have stable housing, the overall cost of health care is reduced. We see people who engage more in outpatient services, and they’re seeing the emergency room and hospitalization far less. So it really does make a big difference,” she said.

Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Jason Weida attended the recent press conference in St. Petersburg. AHCA, which houses the state’s Medicaid program, is renegotiating its Medicaid managed care contracts. Slated to take effect Jan.1. Weida said mental health is a “really key component” of the new contracts.

Moreover, Weida discussed a Medicaid managed care housing project, which he called a “really important” component in solving the SMI crisis.

“I think what we’ve learned is that calling it a housing pilot is a little bit of a misnomer because the services that we end up providing are really geared towards addressing SMI and other mental health issues. And our program is working with our partners in serving thousands in the Medicaid program,” Weida said.

Christine Jordan Sexton Tallahassee-based health care reporter who focuses on health care policy and the politics behind it. Medicaid, health insurance, workers’ compensation, and business and professional regulation are just a few of the things that keep me busy.