Governor DeSantis’s new state budget includes a $5M appropriation toward inpatient behavioral healthcare in Northeast Florida

Baptist Health and Wolfson Children’s recognize funding support of the Governor, Florida Legislature and Northeast Florida Legislative Delegation to help children and teens with severe mental health issues.

Jacksonville, FL

Earlier today, Governor Ron DeSantis signed the 2023-2024 state budget (SB 2500) into law, which includes a $5 million appropriation toward a new 20-bed inpatient pediatric behavioral health unit at Wolfson Children’s Hospital. The new state budget is effective July 1, 2023.

There is a huge demand and need for pediatric and adolescent behavioral health services in Northeast Florida, which was exacerbated by the pandemic and its impact on youth. Today, there are only 65 pediatric inpatient behavioral health beds between Daytona Beach and Fernandina Beach. Unfortunately, due to low Medicaid reimbursement, many providers do not have the resources to invest in inpatient pediatric behavioral health beds.

“For decades, Baptist Health has made it our mission to address this critical need for Northeast Florida and beyond,” said Michael A. Mayo, DHA, FACHE, president and CEO of Baptist Health, which includes Wolfson Children’s Hospital. “While it is a significant investment, it is necessary to address health and well-being from a holistic perspective.”

“But we cannot do it without help, from donors and the state,” Dr. Mayo added. “We are grateful to Governor DeSantis and the Florida Legislature for their support of this critically needed resource for children and adolescents with severe mental health disorders in our region. We especially want to thank the Northeast Florida Legislative Delegation for their advocacy, which includes the House and Senate sponsors – Representative Wyman Duggan and Senator Clay Yarborough – as well as other members of the Northeast Florida Legislative Delegation, including Representative Sam Garrison, Chairman Tom Leek, Speaker Paul Renner, Senator Tracie Davis and Senator Jennifer Bradley, who recognized how vital this project is to families in our community and region.”

Allegra C. Jaros, MBA, president of Wolfson Children’s Hospital, agreed. “Members of the Northeast Florida Legislative Delegation have a unique understanding of the need for inpatient behavioral health beds in the greater Jacksonville area,” she said. “Northeast Florida has long been challenged to match limited mental health resources for children and adolescents with the overwhelming demand for this specialized type of care. As a primary provider of inpatient pediatric mental health services, Wolfson Children’s Hospital has worked with state legislators and community organizations to find creative solutions to help fill gaps in services where we can support struggling families. We are so grateful for this $5 million investment toward our $8.9 million new inpatient behavioral health unit, which will impact the lives of families for generations to come.”

Terrie Andrews, PhD, vice president of Baptist Behavioral Health, said that 90% percent of patients presenting to one of six Wolfson Children’s Emergency Centers with mental health crises are brought in by their parents. Children requiring hospitalization are treated in the current 14-bed inpatient unit at Wolfson Children’s Hospital which opened in 1993.

“When the new 20-bed inpatient behavioral health unit at Wolfson Children’s Hospital is complete in early 2024, it will serve as a major resource that will help us significantly expand our capacity to care for children and teens requiring hospitalization for serious mental health conditions,” she said. “Not only that but it will also help us reduce wait times for children and adolescents in our region by nearly 50 percent. Our behavioral health providers are thankful for this incredible legislative support for the benefit of the families we serve.”