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Florida Deploys Telehealth Portals in 63 Public Schools

The new installation of telehealth portals in 63 public schools throughout six counties in Northwest Florida is aimed at providing mental health services to students still recovering from Hurricane Michael.

Florida announced the installation of telehealth portals in 63 public schools Thursday in Northwest Florida with a goal of providing mental health services to students still recovering from Hurricane Michael.

State officials first mentioned the installation of telehealth stations back in June. On Thursday, Florida's first lady, Casey DeSantis, and others gave a presentation on the progress of the plan during a press conference Thursday at Bay High School. The first lady is one of the faces of the project. 

“I was proud to be in Northwest Florida this morning to announce the installation of these portals that will bring the necessary mental health services that our students need and deserve,” she said. “While this is an innovative, 21st century approach and a promising start to tackling the mental health crisis, we understand that this is just one piece of the puzzle. We want to make sure that people realize that hope is on the horizon and at the end of the day this community will be made whole.”

Each school will have one portal in a location determined by administrators. Students can access the telehealth stations after receiving a referral from a guidance counselor and written consent from a parent or legal guardian, according to a press release. Students will then be able to speak in private with a mental health service provider who will assess, diagnose and potentially begin to treat the child.

Parents and guardians will be able to call into sessions using an app, or they can choose to receive a summary following the one-on-one if they are unable to participate.

Department of Children and Families Secretary Chad Poppell said the installation of telehealth symbolizes a dedication to quality mental health care in Florida.

“DCF is proud to join [Gov. Ron DeSantis and Casey DeSantis] in this effort, ensuring that all Floridians feel safe and comfortable getting the help they need, when they need it,” he said in a press release.

The telehealth announcement is a part of Casey DeSantis’ Hope for Healing Florida campaign, which aims to leverage public and private resources to help Floridians struggling with mental health and substance abuse, the release states.

“The installation of these telehealth services for public schools in these six Northwest Florida counties will be a valuable resource that students can turn to for their immediate mental health needs,” said Mary Mayhew, secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration, in a prepared statement. “I commend Gov. DeSantis, the first lady and the Department of Children and Families for swiftly taking action to support the residents of Northwest Florida — who have already shown such incredible perseverance — with this critical access to rehabilitative health care technology.”

The portals will be installed in Bay, Gulf, Calhoun, Jackson, Liberty and Franklin counties. The stations will be ready by the start of the school year on Aug. 12, the release states.

Patrick Groves was a staff writer for Government Technology from 2019 to 2020.
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