Gov. DeSantis, first lady announce funds to assist with mental health of first responders

$12 million to be distributed through DCF

FILE - In this July 3, 2021, file photo Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, right, and his wife Casey tour a makeshift memorial near the Champlain Towers South condo building, where scores of victims remain missing more than a week after it partially collapsed in Surfside, Fla. As he prepares for a reelection bid next year that could propel him into a presidential campaign, the tragedy in Surfside is exposing voters to a different side of DeSantis. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File) (Lynne Sladky, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

TAMPA, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis held a roundtable Friday morning in Tampa to discuss money from the state aimed at helping first responders dealing with mental health issues.

The event was held at 10 a.m. at the Tampa Firefighters Museum.

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Casey DeSantis announced $12 million in state funding which will be given to the Florida Department of Children and Families. Through DCF, agencies will be able to apply to DCF for a grant to support “their resiliency and their mental health,” according to Casey DeSantis.

“And so the total of $12 million is going to be put forth through the Department of Children and Families. And it’s going to go to the six DCF regions. And then from there, you’ll be able to apply and it will be able to filter down locally because we know what works in some areas might not work in another area,” the first lady said.

The governor used the apartment complex collapse in South Florida in June as an example of the type of traumatic events first responders have to deal with.

“You had folks that were there rescuing people immediately,” Ron DeSantis said. “Then we saw people — primarily initially the South Florida task force but then all around the state — converge to assist in the rescue and recovery efforts. And so that was very meaningful, and I know that they saved a lot of lives, particularly on that first night, but when you’re doing this type of stuff, it’s not easy.”

The governor and first lady were joined by DCF Secretary Shevaun Harris, along with several first responders representing law enforcement and firefighters from around the state.

“With the $12 million, we will initiate a competitive procurement that focuses on expanding access to critical mental health resources, including peer supports, information and referral services,” Harris said. “In addition, respondents will have the option of providing behavioral health services like therapy services, in-person or telehealth, for those who may need additional support.”

The DCF secretary added that the agency plans to develop standardized training and an online toolkit for agencies. Harris said this will allow those first responder agencies to “offer training to their employees with a focus on prevention through improving mental well-being, stress management and ways to effectively cope with trauma.”

“We hope that this $12 million is going to be able to be used in a great way to be able to provide opportunities that might not have been there before,” Casey DeSantis said.