ORLANDO, Fla. — A new proposal in the Florida Legislature adds a specialty license plate that help those impacted by the 2016 Pulse Nightclub attack.

State Senator Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, filed a bill to create an “Orlando United” tag to honor to the victims and survivors of the Pulse nightclub shooting, as well as to recognize the community response to the tragedy.

Revenues from the plate would also create a permanent funding source to continue providing mental health services to those impacted by the nightclub shooting.

“We are going to have a greater need for probably 10 years,” Stewart said. “We need to continue to support them and not forget.”

Current federal funding for mental health services is set to run out at the end of September 2019, but local advocates warn the impact of the 2016 attack will remain for years to come.

“Working through trauma in a community, either collectively or individually, can last for several years after the actual occurrence,” said Dr. David Baker-Hargrove, president and co-CEO of Two Spirit Health Services. “Our societal pressure is to buck up, but we really have to remember that we’re human beings, and while we’re equally strong and resilient, we’re also fragile and we have to tend to that side of us as well.”

Dr. Baker-Hargrove estimates his practice averages 25 behavioral health appointments and 25 medical appointments each month from people directly impacted in some way from the nightclub shooting.

“A lot of people who are affected don’t realize the level of impact the event has had on them until many years down the line,” Dr. Baker-Hargrove said.

Mental health advocates say continuing services is crucial for the long-term healing of a community deeply impacted by such a tragedy.

An “Orlando United” specialty license plate first needs legislative approval, which could happen during the upcoming session in March.

If it wins approval, advocates must pre-sell at least 1,000 plates before design and production begins. Specialty plates cost $25 in additional to standard vehicle related fees.

Stewart’s bill proposing an “Orlando United” plate prescribes that revenues would be distributed among Mental Health Association of Central Florida, Two Spirit Health Services, and onePULSE Foundation.

Each group would receive at least 31 percent each, with 7 percent for marketing the plate.

Mental Health Association of Central Florida and Two Spirit Health Services would use the revenue to provide free mental health care services to those impacted by the attack.

OnePULSE Foundation would use their share of revenue “…to support the construction and maintenance of the onePULSE Foundation Memorial.”

Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles’ latest numbers for 2017 show there are 1.5 million specialty plates in use for more than 120 various organizations.

Six of the top 10 selling plates each produce more than $1 million for their respective organizations.

In Orange County, where the plate would likely be very popular, the top plate in 2018 was the University of Central Florida, according to Orange County Tax Collector Scott Randolph.

Randolph says 1,398 new UCF plates were sold in Orange County in 2018, with 6,683 currently on the road within the county.

The top 10 also includes:

  1. UCF
  2. UF
  3. FSU
  4. Help Sea Turtles Survive
  5. Endless Summer
  6. Marine Corps
  7. Army
  8. Save the Manatee
  9. Protect Wild Dolphins
  10. Protect the Panther