Florida has ranked 49th when it comes to mental health funding in the United States, according to Mental Health America.. July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month and a local organization seeks to raise awareness about the issue.
Nearly 2.9 million Florida adults, about 17% of the population, have some form of mental illness and for many in low income families, or where English is a second language, access to this service has proven to be a burden.
The ranking, based on nine measures, ranging from adults and youth who did not get treatment, to those who are uninsured or unable to afford care, to the availability of mental health workers, pushed local organization Hablamos Español Florida (HEF) to announce a partnership with Pan American Behavioral Health Services to increase mental health and harm reduction services to all Hispanics and the immigrant community, regardless of insurance or status.
“Florida has long maintained one of the lowest per capita mental health expenditures in the nation. According to the most recent available data, Florida has a per capita mental health services expenditure of $37.28, giving it a rank of 49th,” the group stated in a press conference this week.
The group said that while July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, there is a huge need to work and provide resources for mental health all year long.
“Hablamos Español Florida is proud to be joined today by leaders of the Latino community and partnered organizations coming together to transform the way that mental health care works for our community,” said Ericka Gómez-Tejeda, a founding co-chair of Hablamos Español Florida “Members of our community have been suffering due to the lack of accessibility to mental health and harm reduction services being made available to monolingual Spanish-speakers, this partnership will address that.”
In June, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a budget that includes $126 million in recurring revenue for behavioral health services. The Florida Association of Managing Entities said that this “substantial and reliable funding will go a long way toward helping Floridians access the behavioral health services they need to address mental illness and substance use disorder.”
For Hablamos Español, while this is a huge start, it is not enough. “In my case I had a full-blown panic attack, nerves, stress, anxiety. Something that is hard to overcome… Everything is in English, and I don’t understand what they’re telling me,” said Jaykarey Skerett, an impacted community member who was affected by Hurricane Maria in 2017 and a 6.4 magnitude earthquake in 2020 in Puerto Rico.
Brendan Ramirez, CEO of Pan American Behavioral Health Services of Florida said that there is a big need in focusing resources to underserved communities. “We know that there’s a stigma particularly in Black and brown communities for seeking mental health care services. But we should never treat illnesses from the neck down differently than illnesses from the neck up.”
“For years, our state has forgotten about the needs of our Spanish-speaking monolingual communities,” said Nancy Batista, field director for Poder Latinx. “Our community is being impacted by the need for resources such as the partnership between Hablamos Español Florida and Pan American Behavioral Health Services, but we shouldn’t have to only count on organizations such as this. We need our community to get out to vote in November and tell our elected officials that we need this care.”
Those interested in more information or to access the services can get in touch with Hablamos Español or the Pan American Behavioral Health Services offices in Orlando.