TAMPA, Fla. – Florida’s First Lady Casey DeSantis on Friday announced $12 million in funding to expand peer-to-peer mental health services available for first responders through the Department of Children and Families. The extra funds will bolster existing prevention and intervention services for first responders and their families.
First Lady DeSantis made the announcement at the Tampa Firefighters Museum while highlighting providers in the Tampa Bay Area who are already engaging in a peer-to-peer model of support.
“First responders impact the lives of Floridians every day and they deserve our support,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis. “In Florida, we realize that on top of financial support, our first responders need to have resources available to support their mental health. We will continue to make investments in our first responders that will make lasting impacts.”
“Our first responders have made it their life’s work to put the needs of others before their own,” said First Lady Casey DeSantis. “It is vital that we provide them with resiliency and mental health resources to continue serving our communities. By expanding these services, we can help to create a strong network of support for our first responders.”
“Prevention and early intervention are the cornerstones of our department’s efforts in working to align our systems to provide needed supports to first responders and their families at our first moment of impact,” said DCF Secretary Shevaun Harris. “We are thankful for our partners across the state who respond with urgency to their clients’ needs, and by further building out and establishing a permanency in resources for mental health services for first responders we know that the department will be able to more effectively and efficiently meet the needs of those who give their all to keep our state safe.”
The $12 million in funding will go to providers in all six DCF regions and will be used to create or expand existing local peer-based services. These services will help to connect first responders and their families with peers who are trained in offering information and supportive counseling.
The funding is in addition to other resources created the past three years. Those initiatives have included:
- The launch of the Hope for Healing initiative and the expansion of the Hope For Healing website to make it easier to access help for mental health and substance abuse.
- Hope Florida - A Pathway to Prosperity which utilizes ‘Care Navigators’ to guide Floridians on an individualized path to prosperity.
- $5 million to provide crisis counseling services through Florida’s network of 2-1-1 crisis helplines.
- Providing $120 million for district Mental Health Assistance programs
In addition to expanding peer-to-peer services, DCF has launched the First Responder Resiliency resource page on the DCF website. The page provides first responders with available mental health resources that they can call or access at any time. The page is also where organizations can access the application to apply for available funding.