April 2019

What happens in Tallahassee has more impact on our daily lives than most people appreciate. Here are a few bills that NAMI Collier has been tracking with the help of Alisa LaPolt, a mental health policy consultant and advocate.

Session ends soon but the work will continue…We will share more on legislative matters over the coming months.  The first three bills we are following include one on housing, early psychosis treatment and school mental health services. For links on these bills follow: HB 253, HB 1187, SB 7030.

Housing options:

Lawmakers are considering a bill (HB 253) sponsored by Rep. Michael Gottlieb (D-Plantation) that would create an “Independent Living Task Force.” Members would develop and evaluate policy proposals that provide building contractors and developers incentives to create housing options for individuals with mental illness or developmental disabilities. The bill requires a report with recommendations to be submitted in December of 2020. The task force would focus on providing incentives for real estate developers to create housing units within mixed-used developments that combine residences, retail space and recreational functions. This “work, live, play” model combined with low-cost, supportive, and affordable housing options can result in a greater degree of independence for people with disabilities and with low-cost, supportive, and affordable housing options can result in a greater degree of independence for people with disabilities and provide respite for their caregivers. A companion bill, SB 670 by Sen. Mike Rader (D-Boca Raton) is expected to be heard on the Senate floor before session ends May 3. The task force would include a member of NAMI Florida.

Early psychosis treatment:

This bill focuses on the treatment and early intervention for young adults who experience a psychotic break. It passed the full House and is on its way to the Senate. (HB 1187)sponsored by Rep. Cyndi Stevenson would include the state’s seven pilot First Episode Psychosis programs to the state’s coordinated system of care. The bill defines a First Episode Psychosis program as evidence-based programs that use intensive case management, individual or group therapy, supported employment, family education and supports, and appropriate psychotropic medication to treat individuals 14 to 30 years of age who are experiencing early indications of serious mental illness, especially first-episode psychosis. The bill also makes it easier for peers to become peer specialists.

School mental health:

Lawmakers are considering legislation (SB 7030) that would require school districts to expand the number of mental health providers in schools and strengthen their system of treatment referrals. Under language filed by Sen. Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples), school districts would be required to establish mental health programs that increase awareness among students, teachers, and staff and connect children and families to services. The programs must address depression, anxiety, suicide, and other conditions. The mental health requirements included in (SB 7030), requires sheriff departments to create a “guardian program” that trains school employees (not teachers) with firearm instruction and safety, responses to active shooter situations, and other safety provisions. School districts would have the final say in whether to establish a guardian program in schools, which would result in more armed security personnel on site.
Other requirements include developing a multi-tier approach to getting assessments, diagnoses, intervention, treatment and recovery services for students in coordination with their primary care and mental health providers; employing with a variety of mental health providers and have a process for that; arranging for mental health assessments in 15 days and referrals to mental health services 15 days after the assessment. We expect the House to consider similar language in HB 7093 before the legislative session ends May 3.


Alisa LaPolt, Tallahassee, FL: