PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) – Two stressful situations have hit Bay County in the last two and a half years, first Hurricane Michael and then the pandemic. As a response, Bay District Schools introduced Telehealth in August 2019 to help with the mental health struggles students may face dealing with the pressures these situations brought on.
“Having this conversation around mental health, I think helps set our students up for academic success,” Director of Student Wellness Programs Dawn Capes said.
Telehealth is a virtual mental health program offered during school hours. Capes said so far, the program is working really well. First Lady Casey DeSantis made a huge push for the program in schools on the first anniversary of Hurricane Michael at a press conference on October 9th, 2020.
“I’m very excited to be announcing that this area will be receiving a $5.2 million grant and that is specifically for the Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida,” said DeSantis.
As of October 2020, the coalition serves more than 3,400 kids across the Panhandle. The grant went toward things like classrooms, playgrounds, and telemental health.
“We’re really realizing that this is an invaluable tool for a lot of people to access mental health needs because this has taken such a toll on so many people and when you look at it now as something, a resource you can have right on your phone, it’s really a game-changer for a lot of people to get the help that they need,” said DeSantis.
DeSantis said the money was distributed to the coalition’s seven counties in Northwest Florida.
“It’s a continuing conversation around mental health and how important it was to the First Lady and to our Governor about having that conversation and being open about that conversation,” said Capes.
Capes said the push by DeSantis for Telehealth helped in Bay District Schools. Since the beginning of the school year, Capes said they’ve had 171 interactions, which could include duplicate students.
“I do know that we, along with many of our community providers, do agree that the majority of people do prefer face to face,” said Capes.
In-person or face-to-face, Capes said having conversations about mental health helps set students up for academic success.
Telehealth is available at all Bay District Schools.
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