The Next Step in Advocacy: Legislative Action

By unifying regional health care, human services and behavioral health organizations, Kids’ Minds Matter has successfully made a tangible difference for the families and children in Southwest Florida. However, we need the power of our state and national governments to continue improving access to services, which are severely lacking throughout Florida and nationally. We need your help to achieve these legislative goals.

Understanding Two Critical Roadblocks

One in five Americans has a diagnosable mental health condition. Sadly, 60% of deaths due to overdose, suicide and alcoholism occurred in instances where the individuals did not receive essential treatment. The current ratio of population to mental health providers is currently 750:1. And, the long-term effects of the global pandemic are predicted to last for years.

Adequately meeting the burgeoning behavioral health needs crisis in Southwest Florida requires careful attention and preparation. For this reason, the experts at Kids’ Minds Matter have identified two critical issues.

#1 Workforce Shortages

Lee and Collier Counties have been designated as severe workforce shortage areas. Psychiatrists are aging out of the field. Competition for nurses, counselors and social workers is fierce. This means demand for treatment seriously outpaces available staffing.

There is no quick fix for these staffing shortages. However, new legislation could affect vital change through tuition assistance, loan forgiveness or other state-funded tuition programs to recruit behavioral health professionals to underserved areas. Additionally, Kids’ Minds Matter advocates for a scholarship program to incentivize graduate students who want to work with kids.

Underlying Causes and Factors

Research has revealed several factors behind the workforce shortage of psychiatrists, advanced nursing practitioners, addiction counselors, licensed mental health practitioners and peer support.
  • Aging Workforce
  • Low Reimbursement Rates
  • Low Wages
  • Increased Opioid Use
  • Increase in Military Personnel
  • Seeking Treatment in the Private Sector
  • Law Enforcement’s Transition to Internal Licensed and Master-Level Personnel
  • School System’s Transition to Internal Licensed and Master-Level Personnel
  • More People Seeking Substance Use or Mental Health Treatment
  • Greater Awareness of Substance Use or Mental Health Conditions
  • Long-Term Effects of COVID-19 Pandemic

#2 Reimbursement Rates

Also, a contributing factor to the ongoing staff shortage, medical reimbursement rates for mental and behavioral health services have remained unchanged for 20 years. These current rates are woefully insufficient to cover the cost of providing services. This makes it difficult to recruit and retain competent staff.

Policies enacted during the COVID-19 pandemic enabled those with mental health and/or substance abuse disorders to receive treatment via telehealth. These policies also allowed interns to provide services while being monitored remotely. Kids’ Minds Matters advocates for the continuation of these policies, in tandem with an increase in medical reimbursement rates.

Favorable Outcomes

Research has proven that medical treatment, whether administered in person or via telehealth, provides benefits that exceed the cost of provision.
  • Safe, effective and timesaving alternative to office visits
  • Increased efficiency for the patient
  • Easy access between patients and providers
  • Decreased exposure to illness by reducing transmission opportunities
  • Lower levels of recidivism for those suffering from these illnesses
  • Increased employment opportunities
  • Less reliance on public assistance
  • Reduced time spent in jail

Take a Stand for Kids’ Mental Health

Your neighbors need you to take action. Please write to your elected officials and ask them to address low reimbursement rates and workforce shortages that are impacting your community’s access to quality pediatric mental and behavioral healthcare. Together, we can accomplish real change. 

Email your Southwest Florida State Senate Legislative Delegation Members:

Email your Southwest Florida State House of Representatives Legislative Delegation Members: