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The Florida Department of Education is issuing grant funding to 18 rural Florida School districts — one of them being DeSoto County.

The money will be used to increase students’ access to mental health and student support services.

On Sept. 21, First Lady Casey DeSantis announced that $2 million would be made available to expand student telehealth services.

DeSoto County Superintendent Adrian Cline said the expanded mental health funding will allow the district to dramatically increase services for students and families at each of the schools.

“The virtual option has the potential to reach even more students,” Cline said. “Considering that 32% of our students are receiving instruction online, these services become more critical.”


Cline added that the fear of COVID-19 produces a certain degree of stress with many students.

“Unless this stress is addressed through counseling services, it will negatively impact student achievement. In many cases, involving the family in counseling is critical to arriving at a positive solution. DeSoto is most appreciative of this funding.”

Casey DeSantis said in a press release, “Governor DeSantis and I are immensely proud that these funds will be available to support schools in their efforts to help students overcome barriers to achieving positive mental health wellness. Our schools’ leaders and educators have done a tremendous job preparing for a successful school year, and we are pleased to offer these grants, which will enable them to bolster existing infrastructure and staffing to meet their students’ and families’ ongoing needs.

“These funds are available through the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund, under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and focus on supporting districts to improve access to school-based mental health services in areas where access to qualified professionals is limited and with lower rates of internet connectivity in local communities.”

In the press release, Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran said, “Getting mental health services to students in need quickly and efficiently improves student achievement and long-term success, and I applaud Governor and First Lady DeSantis for prioritizing this critical need using Florida’s CARES Act funding. This is an outstanding opportunity for rural districts to pursue innovative solutions that will benefit all students and families who are participating in both brick-and-mortar and distant learning education models.”

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