August 27, 2018 – At the 2018 Florida Behavioral Health Conference in Orlando earlier this month, the Florida Council for Community Mental Health presented Senator Kathleen Passidomo (R-28) with the 2018 Florida Behavioral Health Care Legislative Leader of the year award.
This prestigious award honors elected officials whose extraordinary leadership and commitment to individuals with behavioral health needs has resulted in meaningful improvement to the system of behavioral health care in Florida.
Acknowledging Senator Passidomo’s impact during the 2018 legislative session, Scott Burgess, President and CEO of David Lawrence Center in Naples presented the award, noting that Senator Passidomo is “a highly respected leader in the Florida Senate and the driving force behind the increased focus and funding for mental health services for students during the 2018 legislative session.”
In the fall of 2017, Senator Passidomo established student mental health as a key priority for the Senate K-12 Education Appropriations Committee, of which she was chair. In October, Chair Passidomo invited a panel of school superintendents from around the state to speak to her committee about the alarming increase in the number of students in Florida’s schools experiencing social and emotional crises.
The information gleaned from the panel discussion became the catalyst for the creation of the “Mental Health Assistance Allocation” in Senate Bill 7026, which provided $69 million in supplemental funding for comprehensive school-based mental health services. The bill – and the funding – were passed by the full Legislature and signed by Governor Scott on March 9th.
“Senator Passidomo is informed, articulate and passionate about doing the right thing for students – as well as adults. We could not ask for a better advocate in behavioral health”, Burgess added.
Due in large part to Senator Passidomo’s advocacy and leadership, Senate Bill 7026 also included funding to establish or expand local mobile crisis response teams, additional Community Action Treatment (CAT) Teams, and mental health first aid training for school personnel.
The award presented to Senator Passidomo is a framed illustration of a heart created by a 15-year-old graduate of David Lawrence Center’s CAT Team. A CAT team is a multidisciplinary treatment approach that provides therapeutic services to youth ages 11 to 21 with serious behavioral health conditions. The young artist explained the significance of her work with a note, “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 for a new life to bloom. Just like how the hardships I have endured have helped me to grow and become the stronger person I am today.”
About the Florida Council for Community Health: The Florida Council for Community Mental Health is a statewide association of community-based mental health and substance use disorder treatment agencies and has been the voice for behavioral health care in Florida since 1959. Council member agencies assist individuals and families living with serious and persistent mental illness, children with severe emotional disturbance, adults with long-term addictions and children with substance use disorders by providing a wide array of services and supports needed to achieve sustained health and recovery.