Mental health is on the minds of Florida lawmakers. Proposals tackling suicide prevention, psychosis treatment, and insurance are pending before the legislature.
In 2017, suicide was the second leading cause of death nationwide for children aged 10 to 14, according to a state analysis. Now, Sen. Lauren Book (D-Plantation) is taking the lead on getting a bill passed to make suicide prevention training mandatory for teachers at public and charter schools.
Last year, the CDC released a report showing that American suicide rates are the highest levels since World War II and continue to rise," Book says.
Teachers would be required to do two hours of suicide prevention training. Right now, that training is voluntary. Alisa LaPolt, with the Florida Mental Health Coalition, says if passed, the bill could save lives.
"Knowing the signs and symptoms... It helps people intervene with their friends and their family members if there is... [a] suicide attempt," LaPolt says.
A proposal by Rep. Cyndi Stevenson (R-St. Augustine) also relates to mental illness. It would make psychosis treatment programs eligible for a state grant. Stevenson says it's essential for people to get early treatment.
"It's a very frightening thing for people experiencing early psychosis and their families. It strikes our young people in the most productive years of their lives between the ages of 14 and 30. And this is when it's important to connect people with the right treatment," Stevenson says.
Psychosis is when people see, hear, smell, taste, or feel things that aren't real. It could also include delusions, paranoia, and more. Coordinated Specialty Care Programs can help people experiencing psychosis get back on track. Often they help people go back to school or work while also educating their families on mental illness. Sen. Darryl Rouson (D-St. Petersburg) has a similar proposal. It focuses on people aged 15 – 30, while Stevenson's is for all ages.
"Delay in treatment can be costly in terms of recovery and long-term outcomes. We need to expand these programs, so they are available to Florida's families," Stevenson says.
A separate proposal from Rouson could help alleviate treatment costs. It requires insurance companies to give equal coverage to costs associated with mental illness as they do for medical and surgical ones.