A South Florida state lawmaker who was instrumental in obtaining increased funding for programs to help young people with mental health issues is honored with the 2018 Behavioral Health Legislative Leader Award at the David Lawrence Center.
The award was presented to state Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, at Florida’s Behavioral Health Conference in Naples that was attended by 1300 mental health and substance abuse counseling providers. The award was jointly conferred by the Florida Council for Community Mental Health and The Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association. Both associations host the annual behavioral health conference.
Passidomo was a key member of the Legislature in this year’s legislative session on the issue of mental health following the tragic school shooting in Parkland earlier this year.
When a troubled 19-year-old walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day this past February and opened fire killing 17 students and staff, it drew attention to the issue of mental health care, especially for young people.
Passidomo saw the need for the state to make a greater investment in mental health care programs and led the effort to increase funding for those programs. She advocated for and helped pass $69 million in school-based children’s mental health services designed for assessment, diagnosis, intervention, referral, treatment, and recovery services.
The success of such programs was illustrated by the writing of a 15 year old graduate of David Lawrence Center’s Community Action Team (CAT). A CAT is a multidisciplinary treatment team that serves youth ages 11 to 21 and their families with a history of mental illness, multiple treatment failures, and at risk of out of home placement or return to out of home placement.
The girl wrote:
“Seven months ago I created artwork that depicted a bleeding heart. It represented how I was feeling at the time: broken, bleeding and in pain. Today I drew a heart with flowers. The blood my heart had spilled gave way to a new life to bloom. Just like the hardships I have endured have helped me to grow and become the stronger person I am today.”
Her words were inscribed on the award.
The CAT program will be implemented statewide to school children across the state of Florida as part of SB 7026, the Public Safety bill passed after the Parkland shootings.