Florida is 27th in the country when measuring health data, but the annual ranking shows the Sunshine State is behind most other states in funding public health efforts. America’s Health Rankings from United Health Foundation showed Florida is 43rd among states in getting public health funding.
Alison Yager, executive director of the Florida Health Justice Project, said the consequences of the lack of funding have been on display in recent years.
“Which left the state ill-prepared for a pandemic,” Yager pointed out. “It hampers our responses to the complex physical, mental and behavioral health challenges that we’re facing.”
She added a startling takeaway from the report is Florida ranks 46th for the rate of uninsured residents. Yager believes it is largely because Florida is one of 11 states failing to expand Medicaid. Gov. Ron DeSantis and some state Republican leaders have long rejected expanding eligibility for Medicaid over concerns about potential future costs.
Dr. Rhonda Randall, chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare employer and individual, said there has been an upward tick of mental-health professionals nationally, although Florida is still seeing a low supply of them.
“We also see a higher rate of professionals choosing careers in mental health and primary care,” Randall reported. “So that was really nice to see, a substantial increase in the number of licensed mental-health professionals in our country.”
The report found drug-related deaths increased by 30% nationally in just one year, also noting the pandemic may have exacerbated the longer-term increase in drug deaths and premature deaths.
Randall stressed it is important to seek support for behavioral health and substance-use issues. They also offer a toll-free treatment helpline through sister company Optum, which provides support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.