March 13, 2020

Legislature Passes Childrens Mental Health Bill Aimed at Reducing Number of Children in Crisis

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – HB 945, the Children’s Mental Health bill, is on its way to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk after winning unanimous approval in the Legislature earlier today. The bill outlines specific procedures that must be followed by the Florida Department of Children and Families and the Agency for Health Care Administration to address the growing number of children suffering mental health crises across Florida.

Over 36,000 children were subject to Baker Act examinations in Florida as recently as the 2017/2018 fiscal year. The legislation approved today will reduce the number of children in crisis through a coordinated effort led by Managing Entities to engage various community stakeholders to create a tailored response to each area’s unique needs. Managing Entities are local, not-for-profit businesses with community boards that manage and coordinate state and federal funds for substance abuse and mental health (SAMH) services.

“We applaud the Legislature for taking this important step to reduce the number of children in crisis by placing its trust in the Managing Entities,” said Natalie Kelly, executive director of the Florida Association of Managing Entities. “Managing Entities are uniquely positioned to provide the oversight needed to ensure that Florida’s children receive effective and consistent care.”

The bill tasks Managing Entities with developing a plan for a coordinated system of care for children. The Managing Entities will collaborate with behavioral health service providers, law enforcement agencies, school districts and superintendents, and other community organizations to identify local needs.

The bill also directs managing Entities to coordinate mobile response teams to deploy in times of crisis. Managing Entities have established a track record of addressing children’s mental health needs following a crisis, including playing a role in coordinating mental health services for  students and families following the Majorie Stoneman Douglas shooting, as well as other needs identified by schools and the community at-large.