About the Institute

History of the Institute

Louis de la Parte

Louis de la Parte

In 1963, President John F. Kennedy signaled the beginning of the community mental health center movement by signing legislation that provided grants to states for the establishment of local community-based mental health centers. In 1967, the Florida Legislature provided $16 million to construct a mental health facility on approximately 43 acres of the University of South Florida's campus in Tampa. The new facility was on USF property but organizationally was an entity under the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services. The Florida Mental Health Institute (FMHI), blending elements of service, research, and training, would serve as a bridge between university-based research and communities facing a variety of problems related to mental illness.


The first phase of the Institute, which included buildings for client living, dietary needs, and a physical plant, was completed by 1974. By 1976, a children's section and an updated activities center were completed. At the time, FMHI's defined mission was to train mental health professionals; conduct research on the causes, care and prevention of mental health problems; and provide treatment to individuals experiencing those problems. By doing so, the Institute became Florida's principal facility to train mental health services personnel and to conduct research on prevention and treatment of mental health problems.


The 80's represented a decade of milestones and accomplishments for FMHI. In 1983, citizen groups concerned with mental health services prevailed upon the legislature to transfer the Institute from the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services to the University of South Florida. The Institute was transferred to USF as an independent budget entity reporting to the University President on a level equivalent to that of a college. However, due to state budget concerns, the next budget prepared by the Governor's office eliminated all funding for the Institute. The same citizen groups, plus supporters of the University, prevailed upon the legislature to restore funding. For the first time, the University recruited and hired an Institute Director with full faculty status and the administrative authority of a dean. At the same time, the legislature enacted into law the Institute's permanent status as a unit of the State University System and of the University of South Florida, and stated the Institute's mission as providing training, education, and research in support of the state's mental health service system. The 1988 legislative session appointed a task force to "review the role of state-sponsored research in the area of mental health services and evaluate the mission of FMHI specifically as it related to research and service delivery." Former state Senator Louis A. de la Parte of Tampa, who was widely recognized for his support for mental health services, accepted the chair of this task force.

Several centers were developed in the 80's at the Institute. The federally funded Research and Training Center for Children's Mental Health was initiated in 1984 to address the need for improved services for children and adolescents with severe emotional disturbances and their families. The Center for Autism and Related Disabilities was established, providing a regional resource to serve individuals with autism and their families. The Juvenile Justice Training Academy and the Residential Aging Project opened in 1987. In 1988, the Center for HIV Education and Research was founded, providing healthcare professionals with the most up-to-date information on caring for persons with HIV/AIDS.


In response to changes in the field of mental health during the early 1990's, the Institute focused more of its research and training on community-based projects. FMHI also began increasing its role in informing public policy in Florida and the nation. The Institute was asked by the Legislature to help revise the state's civil commitment law, known as the Baker Act; to study the issue of parity in mental health insurance coverage and its potential impact for the state; to help in revising the children's mental health code, and to evaluate financing strategies for mental health care. FMHI entered into a long-term contractual relationship with the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration to study the impact of Medicaid managed care strategies on individuals with mental health and substance use problems.

FMHI continued its role of education and training of human services professionals. As part of the University of South Florida, FMHI increased its undergraduate and graduate teaching activities. In 1998, the Institute began offering its own courses as part of a new graduate certificate program.

In 1996, the Florida Legislature honored former state Senator Louis de la Parte for his lifelong commitment of bettering the lives of the citizens of the state and his advocacy for improved social and mental health services by naming the Florida Mental Health Institute after him.


The 2000's have been a period of major changes and new milestones for FMHI. In 2008, FMHI became a part of the newly formed College of Behavioral and Community Sciences (CBCS). The college focuses on the advancement of knowledge through interdisciplinary teaching, research, and service that improves the capacity of individuals, families, and diverse communities to promote productive, satisfying, healthy, and safe lives across the lifespan. Nested within the College, FMHI continues its role as a national leader in behavioral health services research. In 2014, the Dean of CBCS announced a search for a .50 FMHI Executive Director and committed funding to this position. The Executive Director of FMHI was appointed to provide leadership and ensure that the mission and strategic initiatives of the Institute are realized.

In 2006, FMHI implemented its first intensive Summer Research Institute (SRI@FMHI) funded through a NIMH grant. The SRI@FMHI provides undergraduates entering their senior year with advanced education and mentoring on behavioral health disorders research to encourage their trajectory to graduate school, and to enhance the pool of researchers who achieve successful support from NIH and other federal and national research institutions. Established by the Florida Legislature in 2007, the Criminal Justice Mental Health and Substance Abuse (CJMHSA) Technical Assistance (TA) Center provides training and TA on best practices in jail diversion and reentry for people with mental health and/or co-occurring substance use disorders involved in the criminal/juvenile justice system throughout the State of Florida. The TA Center has a contract with the State of Florida's DCF SAMH Program office to serve counties with CJMHSA Reinvestment Grants (394.656 F.S.). The TA Center's website is a clearinghouse (www.floridatac.org) where detailed information can be found about county level jail diversion initiatives, annual legislative reports and national resources and evidenced-based practices can be found.

The Center for Child Welfare (The Center), initiated in 2007, is a fully online program that supports and strengthens best practice within the child welfare system of care. The Center engages both professionals and foster/adoptive families through the dissemination of accurate and timely information and "real time" training on topics that support practice and caregiving. The Center is an approved continuing education provider, certified by the Florida Certification Board. Utilizing interactive, synchronous, and static web-based technologies, the center produces and maintains a broad range of training products that are customized to meet the requirements for the skill building of various audiences within Florida's child welfare system of care. The Center's focus is to offer relevant web-based training that supports and enhances the "traditional" face-to-face classroom.

The de la Parte Institute Research Library is an established resource for information on mental health research, policy, and treatment. Its core monographic and serial collection on managed care, health care reform, outcomes and accountability, behavioral health services research, and public health policy is unique within the state university system.

The Institute continues its mission to strengthen mental health and substance use services throughout the state of Florida through various strategies. At the state level, the Institute works closely with the Departments of Children and Families (DCF), Corrections (DOC), Education (DOE), Elder Affairs (DOEA), Juvenile Justice (JJ), and the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA). For example, in September 2015 the Governor issued Executive Order 15-175 calling for a comprehensive review of local, state, and federally funded behavioral health services, and an analysis of how well these services are integrated with other services within a community. FMHI produced two reports in response to the Executive Order, an administrative data analysis report and a case file report.

In 2015, FMHI initiated an annual Fall Community Colloquium that brings together national experts and local community leaders to engage in a dialogue on a pressing issue. The topics of the colloquia have included mental health, guns, and violence; the effects of incarceration on offenders, families, and communities; and the intersection between the mental health and criminal justice systems. More than 275 individuals attended the Fall Community Colloquium in 2016 on incarceration.

Today, the Institute continues to focus on some of society's most challenging problems through its research, consultation, and training carried out by the FMHI Affiliates. The Affiliates continue to make major strides in their efforts to secure external funding to support its critical activities. Focused on high impact research, FMHI Affiliates currently have contracts and grants totaling over $20 million with various federal and state entities. More than 50 FMHI Affiliates conduct multidisciplinary research, consistent with their expertise in psychology, psychiatry, economics, criminology, gerontology, anthropology, social work, public health, nursing, and education.