Florida first lady DeSantis takes on mental health issues

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida first lady Casey DeSantis is taking on mental health as a major issue, announcing Thursday that she’ll work with state agencies to examine the effectiveness of state programs and work with private businesses to let Floridians know about resources available to them.

She takes on the mission weeks after coordinating a mental health discussion at the Governor’s Mansion with her husband, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, along with state agency heads and key Democratic and Republican lawmakers.

“The goal really is to let the good people of Florida know how to get meaningful help in a timely fashion that meets their needs,” she said while surrounded by students at a Tampa elementary school.

Casey DeSantis also launched a website called “Hope for Healing Florida” that addresses issues like suicide prevention, bullying, anxiety and depression. It contains messages aimed at removing the stigma about asking for help, as well as links on how to find it.

“When people are looking to use these resources, they’re facing some really tough times,” she said. “They need a simplistic and easy way of obtaining the information quickly, and too often government takes something that should be so simple and straightforward and they turn it into something that’s just confusing and a convoluted mess. We have got to change this.”

DeSantis said she is working on raising money through private business donations for a resource guide for mental health and substance abuse treatment. She said it will be distributed to schools, doctor offices and wherever else makes sense.

She’s also coordinating with the Department of Education, Department of Children and Families and Department of Juvenile Justice to examine what programs work and which don’t in order to better direct the $2 billion the state spends on mental health and substance abuse.

“If some of these programs are not serving the people well, then why do we continuously fund them?” she said. “We owe it to the taxpayer, we owe it to the people who are suffering, the people who are looking for hope, to make sure that we have accountability and transparency over these programs.”