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Lawmakers push ‘Network of Care’ for veterans, behavioral health patients

February 21, 2019
Florida Politics

The Legislature last year funded the creation of an online portal aimed at helping Floridians with mental health illnesses or substance abuse problems.

Now, lawmakers ahead of the 2019 Legislative Session are getting the word out that they want to continue that program, known as the Network of Care Behavioral Health site, and expand it to veterans, military service members and their families.

State Rep. David Santiago, a Deltona Republican, is requesting $262,650 to continue the Network of Care program launched last year. It’s administered by the Department of Children and Families.

“It is my sincere hope that by dedicating more resources to the website, we can connect Floridians with the services they need in real-time and help address the mental health and substance use problems that are destroying families,” said Santiago, who sponsored the original launch of the program.

The site provides users with local programs and services, along with access to emergency help. It also offers extensive literature — more than 30,000 articles — to those suffering behavioral health illnesses.

Santiago’s bill (HB 2645) on Thursday picked up support from the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee.

State Rep. David Smith, meanwhile, is championing a bill this year that would take the same program and apply it to Florida’s veteran community.

Smith’s bill (HB 3271) seeks $135,000 for the Florida Department of Veteran Affairs to administer the Network of Care.

“Whether they need help finding a job or treatment for PTSD, this network would provide access to comprehensive services and information all in one place,” said Smith, a Winter Park Republican.

Retired Naval Commander Dennis Baker, president of Florida Veterans Foundation, supports the legislation. He said it could, among other things, help veterans get access to emergency financial assistance.

“The portal would take you to the provider,” Baker said, noting providers like Project: Vet Relief.

The Network of Care is a product of Trilogy Integrated Resources. A news release from Santiago’s office credited the product with helping “more than 30 million people nationwide through its online offerings, which are replicated and custom-designed for any state.”