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Mental Health and Substance Use Providers Gather at The Capitol To Bring Awareness to Behavioral Health Needs

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Almost 200 leaders, clinicians, and families from across the state
gathered Wednesday at the Florida Capitol for the annual Behavioral Health Day. Advocates
met with legislators and state agencies to bring awareness to mental health and substance use
disorder services in Florida.

The Florida Behavioral Health Association (FBHA) kicked off the day with a press conference at
the Capitol. FBHA President and CEO Melanie Brown-Woofter was joined by Florida
Department of Children and Families (DCF) Assistant Secretary for Substance Abuse and
Mental Health Erica Floyd-Thomas, Agency for Healthcare Administration’s (AHCA) Secretary
Jason Weida, Representative Sam Garrison, Florida Association of Managing Entities (FAME)
CEO Natalie Kelly, and NAMI Florida Executive Director Jarrod Strickland.

“FBHA is proud to represent over 70 not-for-profit, community mental health and substance use
treatment providers throughout the entire state,” said Brown-Woofter. “Our members are the
safety nets in communities, who work tirelessly every day to serve Florida’s most vulnerable

Mental health and substance use providers are experiencing an influx of patients presenting for
services at a higher rate than ever before,” Brown-Woofter continued. “Alongside this increase
in demand, we are also facing a competitive recruitment and retention landscape. To ensure the
well-being of our families and our communities, we must continue to make an investment in
mental health, substance use and prevention services.”

“We have seen record investments made to support and increase behavioral health resources
for children and families in our state,” said DCF Secretary Shevaun Harris. “I am incredibly
grateful for Governor DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis who have shown time and time
again that they are committed to championing innovative and collaborative initiatives as well as
reducing the stigma associated with seeking help from a behavioral health professional. All of
this progress and work would not be possible without the collaboration with mental health and
substance use community providers throughout the state.”

“Every community provider, family member, and health care professional in Florida plays an
important role in providing Florida residents and visitors with the highest level of care to promote
resilience and positive mental health outcomes,” said AHCA Secretary Weida. “We are fortunate
to have so many dedicated professionals serving the acute needs of individuals in their
communities. The Agency looks forward to cross-agency collaboration to make sure we offer
robust services to meet the emotional and physical health needs of Floridians.”
“Making sure that we provide the support and tools needed to address mental health and
substance use disorders has always been something that is near and dear to my heart,” said
Representative Sam Garrison, chair of the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee. “I
am proud to work each and every day to try to make services more accessible to Floridians in

"We're so grateful for Governor DeSantis', First Lady DeSantis', and the entire Legislature's
continued prioritization of behavioral health services in Florida,” said FAME CEO, Natalie Kelly.
“With such dedication from our state's leadership, we've been able to deliver essential
behavioral health services to those who need it most and may not otherwise be able to access
these services.”

The press conference wrapped up with Jarrod Strickland, NAMI Florida Executive Director,
sharing his testimony about his lived experience battling mental health challenges.
“For the last 15 years, I have dedicated my life to connecting communities, supporting families,
and empowering individuals in their mental health journeys,” said Strickland. “As a combat
veteran, I have gained a unique perspective from my experiences with my own mental health
conditions that have only allowed me to better inform my community and elevate the importance
of mental health in every area of life.”

The Florida Behavioral Health Association is a non-profit organization that provides statewide
leadership on behavioral health policy and practice. FBHA supports member agencies offering
services to those in need of mental health and substance use disorder assistance and support.
Its members include a broad range of provider types, ranging from small specialty organizations
to comprehensive treatment organizations with multiple locations within a geographic region.
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