Panhandle School Districts Receive Telehealth Portals for Mental Health Care

Aug 8, 2019

K-12 students in six Northwest Florida counties will have access to mental health counselors at school via video-chat when they return from summer break next week. 

First Lady Casey DeSantis demonstrates the video-conferencing feature on a telehealth portal at Bay High School in Panama City on Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019.
Credit Valerie Crowder

“We’re committed to the students,” First Lady Casey DeSantis said on Thursday at a press conference at Bay High School in Panama City. “If they need help on the first day of school, they’re going to have it.”

 

As part of her statewide campaign to improve access to mental health and substance abuse services, DeSantis announced on Thursday that 63 telehealth portals have been installed in schools across the region in the last two months. 

 “We’re doing this because we ultimately believe this is going to help save lives,” DeSantis said.  

 

Every public school in Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gulf, Jackson and Liberty Counties has received at least one telehealth portal, which contains a video screen and web cams, along with nursing equipment, including a blood pressure monitor and a thermometer. Through the portal, students can receive counseling and mental health evaluations from a licensed professional without ever leaving school. 

“Think of FaceTime with a mental health provider,” DeSantis said. “The parent or legal guardian can also speak with their child and be part of that conversation by simply using their cell phone.” 

This is the first time the state has experimented with putting this technology in public schools, DeSantis said. 

“It really is kind of a game-changer,” DeSantis said. “We hope this is a future for students.”