UCF PTSD clinic gets funding in Florida budget; needs Gov. Scott's signature

By Julie Gargotta, Reporter
Last Updated: Tuesday, May 09, 2017, 10:06 PM EDT

Millions in funding for a University of Central Florida clinic which treats those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder was on the line. But legislators fought to save it during budget negotiations.

Now it's up to Gov. Scott to sign the budget.

  • UCF Restores Clinic to get $2.5 million in Florida budget
  • Helps treat vets, first responders with PTSD
  • Gov. Scott still needs to sign the budget

“I feel relieved, I feel elated, I feel energized," said Dr. Deborah Beidel. “We were waiting last night for the final budget to be passed."

Six years ago, Beidel founded the UCF Restores Clinic with grant money from the Department of Defense. They use virtual technology to recreate the sights, smells and sounds of war, treating hundreds of veterans free of charge.

"These are our friends, our family, our neighbors," explained the Psychology and Medical Education professor. "We need to provide for them because they have certainly been there when we needed them.”

The clinic helped hundreds of veterans, including Bruce Chambers, who fought in Iraq during the surge. An IED explosion changed him and, struggling, he found the UCF Restores clinic in 2012.

“I remember being afraid to go out and do things," Chambers said. “If I hadn’t found that, I can’t imagine what it would be like. Because it would be bad, and I don’t want to think about it.”

But recently, the clinic needed help of its own. Grant money dried up and clinicians prepared to trim services within the next six months.

Dr. Beidel traveled to Tallahassee to lobby on her clinic's behalf. Legislators added funding into their budget, giving her a preliminary sense of hope.

“We definitely were following it very closely because you never know what’s going to happen with state budgets. There’s lots of competing priorities," she explained.

In final negotiations, it was zeroed out until a bipartisan group of local legislators stepped in at the last minute.

“I fought alongside Senator Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, and Rep. Mike Miller, R-Orlando, to ensure that funding was reinstated for the PTSD clinic," said FL Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando.

Pressure led to securing $2.5 million. That's enough, Beidel said, to hire more full time clinicians and hopefully take the program statewide.

“It’s a lot of money, there are a lot of people. This is going to allow us to make this into a very different program, one that could help everyone in Florida," she said.

“There’s something that’s happening, things are changing, and they’re doing amazing things and they can continue to do amazing things," said Chambers.

The clinic treated those with PTSD after Pulse as well. The money can also help the clinic develop virtual reality programs specific to first responders, explained Beidel.

However, it’s not a done deal: The budget has to be signed off by Governor Rick Scott.

“Veterans, first responders, Pulse survivors are running out of places to go to be able to seek treatment for mental health," said Smith, adding,“I’m hoping the governor would not veto funding that supports veterans, first responders and survivors at Pulse.”