Tampa, Florida. — Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis on Friday announced $12 million in funding to expand peer-to-peer mental health services available to first responders through the Department of Children and Families. The additional funds will support 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 participating in a peer-to-peer support model.
“First responders impact the lives of Florida residents every day and they deserve our support,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “In Florida, we recognize that in addition to financial support, our first responders need the resources available to support their mental health. We will continue to invest in our first responders that will make lasting effects.”
“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 imperative that we give them the flexibility and mental health resources to continue serving our communities. By expanding these services, we can help create a strong support network for our first responders.”
“Prevention and early intervention are the cornerstones of the department’s efforts to work to align our systems to provide the necessary support for first responders and their families in the first moment of impact,” said DCF Secretary Shevaun Harris. “We are grateful to our partners across the state who are responding urgently to the needs of their clients, and through additional building and permanent residence in first responder mental health services resources, we know the department will be able to increase the effectiveness and needs of those who are doing their best to keep our state safe.” .
The $12 million in funding will go to service providers in all six DCF regions, and will be used to create or expand local peer-based services. These services will help connect first responders and their families with peers who have been trained to provide supportive information and advice.
Funding is in addition to other resources created in the last three years. Those initiatives included:
Launching the Hope for Healing Initiative and expanding the Hope For Healing website to facilitate access to mental health and substance abuse assistance.
$5 million to provide crisis counseling services through the 2-1-1 Crisis Helpline Network in Florida.
SurfsideSt Strength.com launched in order to support survivors, families and first responders of the Surfside tragedy to receive the emotional support they desperately need.
In addition to expanding peer-to-peer services, DCF launched the First Response Resources page on the DCF website. The page provides first responders with available mental health resources that they can contact or access at any time. The page is also where organizations can access the application to apply for available funding.
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