5 Things Florida: HCBS spending plan, Erica Floyd-Thomas, Behavioral health funding


Emily Boerger


It’s an odd time in COVID. Public opinion has turned gloomy, with Gallup reporting that more people are pessimistic about the future of COVID and getting the disease than are optimistic. That’s the first time since January that more folks are worried than hopeful.

Moreover, 1 in 3 vaccinated individuals are now “somewhat” or “very worried” about getting COVID. Thanks for hyping that 0.1% chance, media. Hope it was worth it.

Meanwhile 20% of unvaccinated individuals are “somewhat” or “very worried” about getting COVID. Maybe 80% of unvaccinated folks are a bit overconfident here. But, for those 20% that are worried, there is a vaccine. It will keep you from getting sick, and almost absolutely keep you out of the hospital. You’ll have less worry by getting it — trust me on this.





With help from Emily Boerger

1. AHCA submits HCBS spending proposal

AHCA recently submitted its $1.1 billion HCBS spending plan to CMS, taking advantage of ARPA’s 10% FMAP increase. The proposal outlines four main areas in which it intends to spend the enhanced funds: improving provider delivery system capacity, enhancing infrastructure, expanding access to HCBS services, and helping recipients regain skills lost during the pandemic.

Approximately $356.4 million would be used to provide one-time stipends to support HCBS program activities, and approximately $266.6 million would provide one-time payments to recruit new direct care workers and increase current worker retention rates. Approximately $50 million would go toward mental health, substance abuse, and rehabilitative services to regain lost skills.


2. $1.6 billion slated to address opioid crisis

Florida is set to receive up to $1.6 billion as part of a settlement with four companies over damages inflicted by the opioid epidemic. Following this win, FBHA President Melanie Brown-Woofter told State of Reform that now is not the time to “take our foot off the gas” in terms of treatment and prevention services.

Brown-Woofter says funding from the lawsuit will address three main areas: opioid abatement treatments (including MAT treatments and increased naloxone distribution), education and outreach, and research-based solutions to identify best practices to address the opioid epidemic. More details on the lawsuit and Florida’s plans for the funds are available here.


3. Q&A: Erica Floyd-Thomas, DCF

Erica Floyd-Thomas is the assistant secretary for substance abuse and mental health at the Florida Department of Children and Families. In this conversation, Floyd-Thomas shares an update on the First Responder Suicide Deterrence Task Force and offers details on the holistic framework she believes is vital to creating effective behavioral health systems for Floridians.

Floyd-Thomas says she is excited about the work the department is doing related to behavioral health prevention and integration. “When you think about prevention and you think about integration, they seem like really simple concepts. But [they’re] very complicated when you think about behavioral health services… [We’re] not wanting to live in a world of crisis, but how do we go upstream to make sure that we are impacting and affecting lives and offering the key services that allow folks to live healthy, resilient lives?”


4. DeSantis, hospital leaders plan for Delta variant

Gov. Ron DeSantis met with AHCA, Orlando Health, Jackson Health System, and others Wednesday for a roundtable discussion to take stock of Florida’s hospitals as the COVID-19 Delta variant spreads throughout the state. As of Sunday, Florida was second only to Louisiana in states with the highest daily reported COVID cases per capita.

Over the weekend, Florida broke another record with over 13,700 COVID hospitalizations. During the roundtable meeting, leaders reported that between 95% and 99% of the patients being treated in hospital systems are unvaccinated. Dr. George Ralls, chief medical officer of Orlando Health, recommended that Floridians continue to get vaccinated, despite instances of breakout cases: “They are absolutely still in a better situation than they would have been had they gotten COVID without the vaccine.”


5. Report finds FL hospitals noncompliant with transparency rules

According to a Patient Rights Advocate report, approximately 47 of 49 Florida hospitals surveyed are not in compliance with federal hospital price transparency rules that went into effect January 1, 2021. The report evaluated 500 hospitals nationwide and estimates only 5.6% of hospitals are compliant with the rule while the rest are noncompliant because one or more transparency requirements are not being met.

According to the report, hospitals most commonly failed to post negotiated prices clearly associated with all payers and plans accepted by the hospital. Cleveland Clinic Florida and Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville are the two surveyed hospitals that were deemed in compliance. The 47 other non-compliant hospitals are detailed here.