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Every day, hundreds of sick and injured patients walk into free and charitable clinics around the Tampa Bay area in need of a doctor.Many are suffering from chronic conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Some patients were referred to the clinics by staff at hospitals where they landed after years of neglecting to care for treatable conditions.The clinics allow the patients to pay what they can, or nothing at all. They are staffed by doctors and nurses who volunteer their time. They survive off donations and small grants.Many of the patients have jobs but they are living paycheck to paycheck. None have health insurance, either because they do not qualify for Medicaid or can’t afford private coverage. For these patients, the clinics are often their only option for primary care.

Casey DeSantis Visits First Coast High To Showcase Initiative To Improve Mental Health

Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis talks at First Coast High School about her mental health initiative.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis was at First Coast High School Monday morning to talk about her initiative to help improve mental health in schools.

Last week at a Florida Department of Education board meeting, a grant for $2,000,000 from the federal government was requested to go toward the initiative. The grant is pending approval and the decision will be made within 30 days.

The initiative collaborates with government agencies to help improve mental health and substance abuse awareness and prevention. 

DeSantis cited a 2017 survey that she said found 28% of high school students reported being sad or hopeless two or more weeks in a row. Fourteen percent reported they were purposefully trying to hurt themselves. 

“In order to make sure that we are doing the right things to fix the problem, we have to understand where the problem is,” DeSantis said.

The initiative emphasizes prevention through education by providing resources to students, offering them mentors and mental health first aid.

On Wednesday Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran is scheduled to present an emotional health education rule. The rule would require grades 6 through 12 to provide five hours of mental health training to students.

Duval Public Schools Superintendent Diana Greene attended the conference. She said the initiative would ensure Duval County students will have access to mentors, social and emotional education and to therapists.

Greene said, “At the end of the day, their health will impact how they can learn.” 

Madison Roberts can be reached at newsteam@wjct.orgor (904)358-6317.

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