University of South Florida

College of Behavioral and Community Sciences


Florida Mental Health Institute celebrates 50 years

Construction of FMHI building on left of screen and building today on right of screen

The Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute building during its construction (left) and today (right).

When the Florida Mental Health Institute (FMHI) was founded in 1974, its mission was to "improve lives of people with mental, addictive, and development disorders through research, training, and education," and in the years since, the institute has made a remarkable impact on mental health initiatives across the state and nationwide.

"By blending these elements of service, research, and training, FMHI serves as a bridge between university-based research and communities facing a variety of problems related to behavioral health issues," said Kathleen Moore, PhD, executive director of FMHI. "The Florida legislature provided funding for the construction of FMHI on about 43 acres of USF's campus, and that's where we remain today."

Louis de la Parte

FMHI is named after Sen. Louis de la Parte to honor his lifelong commitment to bettering the quality of life for citizens in the state of Florida.

By 1976, FMHI was the state's primary facility for training mental health personnel and conducting research on prevention and treatment of mental health problems, and in the early '80s, the Florida legislature transferred oversight of FMHI to USF, and it became a permanent part of the state university system. In 1988, the legislature created a taskforce to make recommendations to maximize FMHI as a state resource. Sen. Louis de la Parte, for whom the institute was later named, served as the first chair of that committee.

Early institute affiliates helped to revise the Baker Act, served on the state's Steering Committee on Managed Behavioral Healthcare, and evaluated Florida's pre-paid mental health plan for the Agency for Healthcare Administration. FMHI also continued its role of education and training human services professionals. In 1998, FMHI began offering its own courses as part of a graduate certificate program at USF, in 2007 FMHI created a minor in behavioral healthcare, and later on in 2012 a major in behavioral healthcare was offered.

Today, FMHI continues to address complex social problems through its research, consultation, and training. FMHI partners with local and state government leaders and citizens in developing and implementing policy and increasing awareness of public health issues. Recently, Moore began serving on the Commission on Mental Health and Substance Abuse as chairperson of the Data Analysis Subcommittee, which has proposed various recommendations, including the planning and development of a statewide behavioral health data repository.

The institute has led several training initiatives including Mental Health First Aid, motivational interviewing, and sessions with USF's Center for Urban Transportation Research on trauma-informed care and how to handle transit assaults. Another educational program, the Summer Research Institute, supports college students with an interest in substance use and co-occurring disorders in building research skills to help them prepare for graduate school.

In addition, FMHI supports local community mental health initiatives. Examples include the Hillsborough County Opioid Summit and This Is My Brave – College Edition at USF, a performance in which students share their experiences with mental health and addiction. Since 2015, FMHI has hosted an annual colloquium that brings together national experts and local community leaders to engage in a dialogue on a pressing issue. Topics 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. 

As the institute continues to focus on some of society's most challenging problems, we invite you to take a look back at FMHI's rich history and hear from several past and current leaders of the institute. Click each of the images below for more.

Catherine Batsche

Catherine Batsche, PhD, associate dean for FMHI (1992-2008), speaks about the development of academic programs connected to the institute and its researchers.

David Shern

David Shern, PhD, FMHI dean (1995-2006), discusses how the institute changed during his 11 years of leadership, becoming more integrated into the university structure.

Bob Friedman

Bob Friedman, PhD, interim FMHI dean (2006-2007), reflects on how the institute's strategic approach to making a difference has led to meaningful changes.

Larry Schonfeld

Larry Schonfeld, PhD, FMHI executive director (2011-2014), shares insights on the institute's evolution, beginning with the deinstitutionalization movement.

Mary Armstrong

Mary Armstrong, PhD, FMHI executive director (2014 -2018), talks about a critical mission of FMHI - its partnership role with state and local governments.

Kathleen Moore

Kathleen Moore, PhD, FMHI executive director (2018-current), shares how the foresight of Sen. Louis de la Parte allows FMHI to do its important work today.

FMHI will celebrate its 50th anniversary milestone with a celebration on Thursday, May 16, 2024 at the USF Gibbons Alumni Center – Traditions Hall.

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About College of Behavioral & Community Sciences News

The Mission of the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences (CBCS) is to advance 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. CBCS envisions the college as a globally recognized leader that creates innovative solutions to complex conditions that affect the behavior and well-being of individuals, families, and diverse communities.