Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis Announces New Funding to Fight Opioid Abuse, Neonatal Syndrome

$58.8 Million Federal Grant will Improve Data Collection and Response to the Opioid Crisis

Hollywood, FL (STL.News) – Wednesday, First Lady Casey DeSantis announced an intensive acceleration in the fight against opioid addiction in Florida, including $58.8 million in new federal grant funding to enhance the tracking of and response to opioid abuse and the creation of a Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Statewide Prevention Coordinator position to enhance resources and services for pregnant women with opioid addiction.

A three-year Overdose Data to Action grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will pump $58.8 million of new funding into prevention and treatment initiatives led by the Florida Department of Health (DOH) in partnership with the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) and local stakeholders.  The grant was awarded to DOH and the county health departments in Broward, Duval and Palm Beach counties.

As part of her Hope for Healing Florida initiative, First Lady DeSantis made the announcement after touring Memorial Regional Hospital and Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and holding a listening session with healthcare leaders.

“Florida has made a lot of progress in addressing the crisis of opioid abuse,” said First Lady DeSantis.  “That is because our Governor has made it a priority and because so many dedicated health and substance abuse professionals are committed to finding meaningful ways to help those fighting the tragic consequences of this deadly drug.  Today we are forging new paths to use all that research and data to improve coordination and delivery of services to make a real difference in people’s lives – to save lives.”

The First Lady’s Hope for Healing Florida initiative is a multi-agency mental health and substance abuse campaign to coordinate the combined efforts and resources of DCF, DOH, the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and the Florida Department of Education to better serve the needs of Floridians struggling with mental health and substance abuse.

“I am proud of the First Lady’s devotion to this issue and the collaborative partnerships she is building to push for action and results, and I am grateful to the Department of Health for securing this crucial funding on behalf of Florida families and communities struggling with this crisis,” said Governor Ron DeSantis.  “Today’s announcement moves the ball forward toward real solutions to end the destruction and havoc that opioid abuse is causing in too many lives across our state.”

The Overdose Data to Action grant will provide for staffing, including five Florida Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) Fellows, and funding for travel to collect and analyze data needed to target prevention and response efforts.

“With the help of our federal partners at CDC, we have taken another major step in combatting the opioid crisis by investing resources at the state and local level to help save lives,” said Lt. Governor Jeanette Nuñez.  “This grant funding will greatly enhance our ability to track, monitor and respond to the opioid crisis plaguing our state, and I applaud the efforts of First Lady Casey DeSantis and Governor Ron DeSantis to shine a light on this issue.  We will continue to work to find new and effective prevention and treatment methods for Florida families to recover.”

“I want to thank Governor DeSantis and First Lady DeSantis for taking resolute action against this deadly threat to public health in our state,” said Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees.  “This important grant is an opportunity for Florida and local public health systems to mobilize surveillance and prevention efforts to address the opioid overdose crisis.  The department is proud to be a part of the First Lady’s Hope for Healing Florida initiative and the fight to end the opioid epidemic through surveillance, prevention, education and policy efforts to improve health outcomes for all Floridians suffering from addiction.”

First Lady DeSantis also announced DOH’s new Neonatal Abstinence Coordinator position to provide support to local health departments, link field-based activities with the goals of Florida’s Opioid Use Disorder, Maternal Outcomes, Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Initiative, and identify policy changes needed to combat Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.  The new position will build partnerships among health professionals and public health and social service providers to promote coordination and continuity of care for pregnant and postpartum women with opioid use disorder and infants prenatally exposed to opioids.

“Far too many families in our state are in crisis, battling substance abuse issues including addiction to opioids,” said AHCA Secretary Mary Mayhew.  “But the DeSantis Administration has made it clear, that when someone is ready for treatment that there is a door open and providers ready to deliver effective treatment focused on recovery.  Our agency stands ready to work collaboratively with the Department of Health and the Department of Children and Families to ensure that expectant mothers have access to effective treatment and prenatal care.  Together we are all working in concert to help moms on the road to recovery and to provide children with a healthy start in Florida.  I commend the First Lady for her strong leadership and her efforts to make a difference in the lives of families across our great state.”

“Governor Ron DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis have made it clear that they are strong advocates for Florida’s children and families,” said DCF Secretary Chad Poppell.  “Substance abuse affects more than just adults.  A newborn’s first hours can be filled with the unimaginable pain of withdrawal and older children often witness the devastating impact of substance use by their caregivers.  Florida’s families need to know that recovery is possible and there are services in their communities to set them on the right path.”

“For years, Memorial Healthcare System has supported programs that address substance abuse and behavioral health issues in this community,” said Aurelio Fernandez, III, President and Chief Executive Officer, Memorial Healthcare System.  “We have been fortunate to participate in programs that have positively impacted patients who struggle with addiction and need another chance at life.”

“Every child deserves a healthy future, and Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital is fortunate to be in the position to provide the most complex, high-risk care to babies in our region,” said Caitlin Beck Stella, MPH, Chief Executive Officer, Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital.  “We are grateful to have the support of First Lady Casey DeSantis to be able to provide programs necessary to minimize the impact of substance abuse and mental health on children in our community.”

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