Programs to help people with psychosis could receive more state funding under a new proposal moving through the legislature.
Jasmine Gray was going to school in Alabama for communications media with a focus in production.
“I like to record videos a lot. I like to edit videos and [have] been leaning more towards a producer,” Gray says. She loves to write and be creative, but has been struggling with major depression.
“I struggled really badly with doing things on a daily basis that I needed to do like even simple things like showering. You know, or just getting out of the bed."
Then, she almost died in a car crash, and afterward she says, it made things worse.
“So I would be sitting in bed and I’m just stuck in my head all day. Hearing voices and stuff, like a lot of negative thoughts in my head that didn’t sound like me at all. And it scared me. It made me more suicidal than I already was,” Gray says.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, three out of 100 people will experience psychosis. It’s when someone has a break from reality. It could take the form of hallucinations, paranoia, delusions or disordered thoughts and speech. These episodes are triggered by a combination of genetics and life stressors, such as a life-threatening car crash.
Gray moved back home to Panama City and her mother encouraged her to enroll in what’s called a ‘First Episode Psychosis Program’—or FEP—a short-term program that provides therapy, medication management and more to people experiencing psychosis for the first time.
According to a state analysis, only seven counties in Florida offer FEP programs. Life Management Center in Bay County offers those services for free. It targets people aged 16 to 35.
The agency’s CEO Ned Ailes says that’s because most people experience psychosis for the first time during that age.
“You know the whole point is we’re trying to catch people early. Very early in this disorder because the prognosis for individuals—if you catch it very early—is tremendously improved. It’s like any other health care problem,” Ailes says.
Gray has been with Life Management’s program for four months now.
“So coming into the program, basically almost saved me, you know, besides my mother,” Gray says, “It opened my eyes to the fact that I’m not the only one really dealing with a lot of the symptoms that I have.”
Now, Rep. Cyndi Stevenson (R-Saint Augustine) is trying to get FEPs more funding. Her proposal would allow them to apply for the criminal justice, mental health, and substance abuse reinvestment grant program. Stevenson says not many people know about FEPs.
“I’m really surprised when I go out in the public and talk to people, even people in the mental health field, who are not aware of this program and its success,” Stevenson says.
As for gray, she’s not sure what her future has in store. Stevenson’s proposal is heading to its third committee stop. The senate version has not yet been heard.