The state may soon assemble a commission to study mental health issues under a bill awaiting consideration by the Florida House.
The bill (SB 1447), sponsored by Democratic Rep. Christine Hunschofsky, would create a 19-member Mental Health and Substance Abuse Commission. According to a staff analysis, the commission would examine the state’s mental health and substance abuse services.
In Feb. 2019, Gov. Ron DeSantis called for a grand jury to investigate safety measures in school districts in response to the 2018 Parkland shooting. The grand jury recommended the mental health commission.
Notably, Hunschofsky is serving her first term in the House after leading as Parkland Mayor at the time of the attack.
“In the wake of the Parkland shootings, as Mayor, I saw first-hand how our labyrinthian system of providing mental health services hindered healing for too many families — I vowed then to fix that and this bill is a badly needed first step in doing that,” Hunschofsky said in March.
According to a staff analysis, the Governor, Senate President and House Speaker would appoint the commission members. The commission must convene by Sept. 1 and consist of representatives from a variety of backgrounds.
Mental illness and substance abuse are a growing concern in the Sunshine State, ranking high on First Lady Casey DeSantis‘ professional agenda.
Mental illness affects millions of people in the United States each year, the staff analysis adds.
Nearly one in five adults, or 51.5 million people, live with a mental illness.
According to a staff analysis, roughly 13.1 million adults have a serious mental illness.
Notably, many people are diagnosed with more than one mental illness.
“For example, people who suffer from a depressive illness (major depression, bipolar disorder, or dysthymia) tend to co-occur with substance abuse and anxiety disorders,” the staff analysis explains.