On Feb. 1st, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced his Framework for Freedom Budget for the 2023-2024 fiscal year, which includes major investments in cancer research and behavioral healthcare. The Framework for Freedom budget totals $114.8 billion, and primary focuses include expanding the economy, restoring the environment, and maintaining health reserves to respond to natural disasters.
The governor’s proposed budget for the Agency for Health Care Administration is $38.5 billion, which is around $2 billion less than the agency’s current 2022-2023 budget. DeSantis allocates $3.7 billion to the Department of Health—approximately $196 million more than the department’s budget for the current fiscal year.
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“Florida’s focus on freedom has led us to outpace the nation on all fronts,” DeSantis said. “Through the Framework for Freedom Budget, we are establishing freedom first policies to benefit Florida workers and families and to provide a framework for future prosperity. Florida will fight against federal headwinds by putting forth sound fiscal policies that keep more money in the pockets of Floridians. Our budget proposal not only builds on the successes of the past four years, but ensures that Florida will continue to thrive.”
To keep more money in Floridian pockets during a time of high inflation, the budget proposes four permanent tax cuts, and over ten temporary tax cuts. Permanent sales tax exemptions would be applied for baby and toddler necessities, cribs and strollers, over-the-counter pet medications, and gas stoves. Temporary tax exemptions would be applied to children’s books, toys, and athletic equipment; certain household items and clothing; disaster preparedness items; outdoor recreation items; dental oral hygiene products; pet food; hand and power tools; energy star appliances; and natural gas.
DeSantis addresses affordable housing in the budget, with a proposed $402.7 million to fully fund the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Funds. About $121.7 million would go towards the State Apartment Incentive Loan Program, and $281 million would go towards the State Housing Incentives Partnership Program.
DeSantis proposes an investment of over $166 million in cancer research, with $20 million directed to establish the Florida Cancer Innovation Fund, which would support ongoing and innovative cancer research. Florida House’s Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee met in late January, where they were presented with biomedical research programs concerning cancer, with goals of establishing as many cancer care centers in the state as possible.
Nearly $143 million would go towards enhancing services for pregnant and postpartum women and children, which includes $3.8 million to support premiums for families who receive services through Florida’s Healthy Kids program and were impacted by Hurricane Ian. The budget proposal also includes over $76 million for hospitals that provide in-patient services for acutely ill newborns and pediatric patients.
To support those in the child welfare system, over $96 million in funding would go towards foster parents and caregivers, community-based services, local prevention grants, and additional family navigators to connect high-risk families and children to resources and support through the collaboration with frontline child protective investigators. About $4.4 billion in funding would go towards the Department of Children and Families to enhance prevention services and support to the department’s systems.
“Thanks to the governor’s leadership, our department has consistently had the support and the resources it needs in place to most effectively and efficiently serve Florida’s families,” Secretary Shevaun Harris said. “The Framework for Freedom Budget further invests in our system improvements and enhances the services that are available to help Floridians. The budget will continue to support the transformative work underway at the department and we are so appreciative [of] his ongoing support.”
An investment of $1.1 million would assist with onboarding 10 additional family navigators. The department would also use funding to expand bed capacity at state mental health treatment facilities by 1,270 beds.
DeSantis suggests over $531 million in funding to support an array of behavioral healthcare services. He recommends $334 million to increase access to treatment including prevention services, medication assisted treatment, recovery support and continued research, and surveillance activities to reduce overdoses, unemployment, and incidences of hospitalization and becoming unhoused. This portion of the budget would include $147.4 million from the Opioid Settlement Fund.
The budget also proposes over $79.6 million in funding to allow 1,200 additional people in crisis to be served through the Agency for Persons with Disabilities waiver program. To provide services to survivors of human trafficking, DeSantis proposes $1.5 million for individualized clinical treatment and behavioral supports such as cognitive behavioral treatment, and motivational interviewing.
DeSantis suggests $9 million in funding to expand services provided by the 17 memory disorder clinics in the state, and the Brain Bus, to increase diagnosis and prevention strategies for individuals impacted by Alzheimer’s disease or other related dementias.