Healthcare leaders, lawmakers discuss issues facing Florida’s healthcare system

by | Nov 13, 2023

  • State Senator Cory Simon and other healthcare leaders convened in a virtual panel to discuss Florida’s community health challenges, emphasizing the importance of educational opportunities, mental health support, and the Florida Pathways to Prosperity program.
  • Panelists addressed the need for comprehensive community assistance, with Cathe Dykstra focusing on long-term solutions like education and stable housing, and Michael Overway discussing success in helping individuals transition from poverty.
  • The panel also discussed the impact of natural disasters on community health services, with participants detailing the long recovery process in Lee County following recent hurricanes.

Key healthcare leaders and lawmakers gathered in a virtual panel hosted by Molina Healthcare Florida and the Molina Cares Accord to address pressing challenges in Florida’s community health and support systems.

The panel featured State Senator Cory Simon, Cathe Dykstra of Family Scholar House, Michael Overway from the Lee and Collier County Homeless Coalition, and Christine Coronado from Branches, with moderation services provided by News Service of Florida’s Dara Kam.

In the event’s keynote speech, Sen. Simon drew attention to the need for educational opportunities and community support in improving the lives of Florida families, particularly regarding mental health

“Supporting Florida families through educational opportunities is crucial,” Simon stated.

The Senator also pointed to work done by the Florida Department of Children and Families and First Lady Casey DeSantis to establish the Florida Pathways to Prosperity program.

“This program has been so important because what it’s done is it’s matched the private sector or the public sector, with our nonprofit sector and with our folks from our churches, to build such a strong community,” Simon said. “We need that resiliency.”

Dykstra, succeeding in Simon’s remarks, delved into the interplay between short-term and long-term support in community assistance. She highlighted Family Scholar House’s impending expansion into Jacksonville and Orlando, emphasizing the critical need for collaboration and integration with local partners. This network includes nonprofits, faith-based organizations, educational institutions, and workforce agencies, reflecting a comprehensive approach to community aid.

“From our perspective, families in need benefit from both short-term support and long-term solutions,” said Dykstra. “But from our perspective, sustainable self-sufficiency really comes from those long-term solutions, such as education, workforce skills, stable affordable housing, and financial literacy, just to name a few.”

Overway shed light on homelessness and its relation to healthcare and mental health by sharing success stories from the Bridges out of Poverty program, highlighting the program’s impact on individuals transitioning from poverty.

“Our approach helps individuals reimagine their lives, fostering long-term success,” Overway said.

Christine Coronado from Branches focused on the importance of financial wellness in family stability, linking financial stress to physical and mental health issues.

“Addressing financial stress is key to breaking its cycle and improving overall well-being,” Coronado noted, detailing Branches’ financial coaching and education services.

The panel collectively discussed the aftermath of natural disasters, particularly hurricanes, on community health services. Overway described the comprehensive community response to recent hurricanes and the anticipated long recovery period.

“We’re in a 4-6 year recovery in Lee County, with significant impacts on housing and poverty,” he stated.


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