Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news from Florida for working families since 2007

Florida News

Florida Policy Institute Reports: Behavioral Health Care Infrastructure More Important Now Than Ever

Girl standing in darkened hallway with caption: Behavioral health care infrastructure more important than ever
Photo: Eric Ward via Unsplash   |   Columbia County Observer graphic

ORLANDO, FL – This is a moment of unprecedented urgency for Floridians needing behavioral health crisis care. The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered increased mental health and substance use disorder treatment needs. A new national suicide prevention hotline – 988 – is launching in July.

Recognizing the urgency in providing services for Floridians in crisis, 36 organizations from across the state signed on to a letter urging Governor Ron DeSantis to take action and draw down millions in additional federal dollars to help ensure a more robust behavioral health care infrastructure. 

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), enacted on March 11, 2021, establishes a new option for states to cover mobile response team services (MRTs) through their Medicaid programs for five years, beginning April 2022. ARPA also provides an enhanced federal match, which covers 85 percent of the cost of these services for the first three years.

MRTs are a critical piece of behavioral health crisis care MRTs provide 24/7, on-demand crisis intervention services in homes, schools, emergency departments, and other settings,

A recent Florida Policy Institute analysis makes the case for using ARPA funds to supplement current state and local funding for MRTs.

The state's current $18.3 million annual investment in mobile response teams, which was made pursuant to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, could be used as a state Medicaid match to draw down over $100 million new federal dollars for the first three years and more than $28 million in subsequent years. Additional state matching dollars could be available through annual mental health allocations provided to local school districts.

Investing in MRTs is especially crucial: a national 988 suicide prevention hotline is being rolled out, and Florida callers will be routed to local centers for help.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the hotline was established “to improve access to crisis services in a way that meets the country’s growing suicide and mental health-related crisis care needs."

It is anticipated that the new hotline number will increase the demand for these services and shine a light on the holes in Florida's crisis care system.

New federal dollars for MRTs could go a long way to help fill those holes.

Sadaf Knight  has over 12 years of experience in public policy research, advocacy and nonprofit management. She is CEO of Florida Policy Institute

Florida Policy Institute is an independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing state policies and budgets that improve the economic mobility and quality of life for all Floridians.

Comments  (to add a comment go here) 

Meeting Calendar
No need to be confused - Find links to agendas and where your participation is welcome.

Make a comment • click here •
All comments are displayed at the end of the article and are moderated.