Travel, gas, PCs among buys made by Florida school districts with mental health dollars

Short of what one month after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Senior High on Valentine’s Day, Florida legislators endorsed more than $69 million dollars to schools, reserved for mental health.

“This was the first time that was ever done,” said Senator Kathleen Passidomo (R) of Naples.

The law stipulated few principles on how school districts could utilize the cash. School districts needed to present a mental health plan to the state and at any rate 90% of the cash should have been spent on proof based mental health care to understudies, as per the law.

Be that as it may, with 67 school districts around the express, “there’s many different ways you can interpret it,” said Dr. Mike Desjardins, Executive Director of Student Support for the Charlotte County school district.

The Charlotte County school district was apportioned one of the littlest amounts simply over $400,000 in state mental health assets to enhance it’s mental health services. Generally a large portion of the cash has just been spent on new mental health enlists, said Desjardins.

“For the first time in a long time we have a full time social worker at all of our high schools,” said Desjardins who worked with the Superintendent to decide how to spend the district’s bit of the assets. However, Dr. Desjardins additionally says choosing how to spend the cash has been challenging since the law didn’t give much direction on the most proficient method to utilize it.

“You don’t want to make a mistake by accident and get gigged on it. You want to make sure you’re spending the money the way the lawmakers intended.” When asked what he believed could be construed as an incorrect way of spending the money, Dr. Desjardins replied, “It was crystal clear in the bill that you’re supposed to provide direct services to students. Incorrect is using the money to go on trips, buying furniture for your office, hiring personnel that could be deemed not mental health related,” he said.

Records uncover other school districts have utilized a part of its assets to enlist clerical staff, including a “confidential” secretary to deal with understudy mental health records. Since November, we’ve asked about two dozen school districts around the state for subtleties on how those districts have spent the new mental health reserves dispensed as a component of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act. We requested spending line reports and receipts for buys profited. Every one of the districts we reached have utilized most of its financing so far enlisting new mental health experts and leading mental health preparing.

Different costs we discovered range from travel and gas to provisions including duplicate paper and PCs. One district utilized its mental health subsidizing to buy 20 new PCs simply over $16,000.

“We didn’t tell them how to spend it,” said Florida Senator Passidomo. She helped push lawmakers to endorse the cash the previous spring.

“What we said was you know what the needs are in your community. All we’d like you to do is to create a plan,” she clarified. Those designs should have been presented by each school district fourteen days after the new school year started in the fall.

Be that as it may, FL Representative Byron Donalds sees the need to clear up the spending rules later on.

“It’s always interesting when districts have money at their disposal, what they do,” he said. “We may have to either retool, tighten up, maybe expand but we want to make sure schools are getting the best bang for your buck,” he said.

What’s more, ensuring cash to help understudies in emergency is being utilized to do only that.

“I’m not an accountant, I’m not a mental health professional,” said Dr. Desjardins in Charlotte County. “Guidance is appreciated. There’s no doubt about that. We need a little bit of it.”

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