Florida Panhandle Schools: Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Franklin, Jackson & Liberty Counties
Hurricane Michael was the first storm of its magnitude to make landfall on the Northeast Gulf Coast of Florida, causing massive destruction. One year following the storm, the Panhandle region was still devastated, with children being among the most impacted by life stressors, primarily trauma and devastation caused by the Hurricane.
With a healthcare workforce shortage in Florida that was acutely felt in mental health, First Lady Casey DeSantis developed a pilot program in conjunction with the Florida Department of Children & Families (DCF) and Big Bend Community Based Care (now NWF Health Network) to help bridge the gap between children in need and providers ready to treat them.
First Lady Casey DeSantis launched the Hope for Healing Initiative, which aimed to equip public schools in the Florida Panhandle with a telehealth kiosk in time to start the 2019-2020 academic year. This would enable more than 35,000 school-aged children to access much-needed mental health care.
In June 2019, Let’s Talk Interactive was tasked by Big Bend Community Based Care (NWF Health Network) to:
All by the start of the school year - a record 42 day turnaround time.
- Arthur Cooksey, Founder of LTI
LTI deployed the telehealth kiosks and portals at the start of the 2019-2020 academic year. This gave schools and communities the ability to receive mental, acute and emergency care on any device with a cellular or internet connection - putting real-time healthcare at every citizen’s fingertips instantaneously. By delivering much-needed counseling via school-based kiosks, children were able to remain in schools.
The telehealth kiosks facilitated 232 virtual child therapy sessions 15 minutes or greater between October 2019 and March 2020 when COVID hit. As students transitioned to virtual learning, they were able to continue connecting with their mental healthcare provider without leaving their homes, resulting in virtual sessions increasing to 2,532 by June 30, 2020, according to the BBCBC annual report.
As of July 2021, program minutes YTD total 704,391 and program sessions YTD total 13,939.
LTI has recently expanded its program to five additional school districts in the Florida panhandle and others throughout the state of Florida including Orange County Schools, Brevard County schools and Broward county schools.