Schools in Northwest Florida will be able to offer mental health services to students through a new telehealth program.
Bay, Gulf, Calhoun, Jackson, Liberty and Franklin counties all started the school year off with working telehealth portals. Each school will have one portal in a centralized location as determined by the school.
After receiving a referral from a guidance counselor, and written consent from a parent or legal guardian, each student will have the opportunity to speak one-on-one in private with a mental health service provider who will assess, diagnose, and if necessary, begin to treat the student. Parents will have the ability to call into the session via a mobile app or receive a summary from the provider following the session if they are unable to participate. This will be in full compliance with all HIPPA laws.
Florida is providing the portals as part of its response to the ongoing recovery from Hurricane Michael. The US Department of Education is also providing assistance through its Disaster Recovery Team which will ensure that any grant funding available to Florida as part of hurricane recovery is fully utilized.
“The installation of these telehealth services for public schools in these six Northwest Florida counties will be a valuable resource that students can turn to for their immediate mental health needs,” said Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Mary Mayhew.
The use of telehealth to help school children cope with the upheaval resulting from a natural disaster is a unique approach and could provide a proof of concept for other counties in the state or other states.
In addition to telehealth support, the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) will be hiring a Recovery Mental Health Coordinator to provide mental health services and coordination following a disaster.