Bill Reicherter Runs for State Senate to Fix Mental Health System that Failed His Daughter
Bill Reicherter wasn’t supposed to be a candidate for the Florida State Senate or run an auto repair shop and a sign business. He wasn’t supposed to serve on the board of a suicide prevention non-profit started by his daughter, either. No, Reicherter was initially supposed to be an NFL player.
After receiving a scholarship to play Division 1 college football, Reicherter was primed and ready to take his shot at the big leagues. But suddenly, his father fell ill, and Reicherter was faced with a choice, follow the lights of the NFL, or go back home to save his father’s business.
Reicherter made the hard choice, putting his wants on indefinite hold to preserve the family business.
A few years later, Reicherter sold the business and started a sign business, but after five years in the industry, he found little success. His in-laws encouraged him to give up and find a job that would be more lucrative. But again, he made the hard choice, persevering and eventually finding fortune in the business through his dedication and resourcefulness.
Reicherter started a family. His daughter, Francesca, struggled with mental health while growing up, surviving three separate suicide attempts. She founded, Inspiring My Generation, a non-profit dedicated to mental health support and suicide prevention for young people.
My dad has been a crucial member of my recovery and success. Since the day he learned I was struggling, he never left my side and has done everything he can to support me through my dreams.~Francesca Reicherter
On the website, Francesca describes the systemic issues in mental health institutions.
“I felt angry for myself, but most importantly, on behalf of every individual who was misdiagnosed, mistreated, or gaslighted for their symptoms. Among the lack of awareness, the underfunded mental health facilities, the misdiagnoses, the stigma creating a world where millions are suffering in silence, and the high financial strain for quality treatment, I felt betrayed by the mental health community, medical community, and our society and I felt outraged for every single person whose life was lost to suicide.”
Reicherter faced another crossroads-he could lie back and rest on his laurels and continue with his private, familiar, comfortable life, or enter the public arena and do the work necessary to fix the system that nearly cost him his daughter.
Again, he made the hard choice. He decided to run for Florida District 30 in the State Senate.
If elected, one of Reicherter’s primary focuses will be on repairing the broken mental health systems that failed his daughter repeatedly. “This all stems back to being a father with a daughter who suffered with mental health growing up,” he told the Florida Jolt.
“Specifically, what I want to see happen, and this doesn’t just go for my child, mental health needs to be heavily funded in our schools.” We should have more counselors who are trained,” said Reicherter.
“There should be more trained staff individuals, or they should have social workers that visit schools and make it a safe place for kids; I know Miami-Dade has started this. But we need to let these kids be able to open up and talk in a safe place where they can get things out that are bothering them, and then address it with the child.”
Reicherter said that children could be taught coping skills or be offered counseling with or without parents present. However, Reicherter noted that parents should still be aware of the child’s situation in solo counseling cases.
He also addressed mental health support outside of schools, including supporting first responders. They tend to have a high divorce, suicide, and domestic abuse rate due to the mental stress they’re put under daily.
When asked by Florida Jolt, Reicherter voiced support for reviving mental hospitals, which were largely discontinued in the late 20th century. Reicherter stressed that better training and follow-ups were also necessary.
“It’s almost like being on vacation is what she [Francesca] told me. But once you get out of those facilities, there’s no follow-up. People are more likely to have suicidal tendencies when they get out of these facilities than before they went in.”
Reicherter noted that this pattern applies to many criminals and homeless people, who could also benefit from therapy programs to prevent repeat offenses.
My dad supports my work with inspiring my generation as we work to reduce suicide by developing preventative resources. ~Francesca Reicherter
“Not all of them are bad; they may have bad situations… you can’t judge a book by its cover.” Reicherter said.
Reicherter does not plan to increase spending to cover the costs of these programs but to reallocate funds from less important, or likely wasteful, government programs. One inefficiency he mentioned is that various trust and slush funds funnel money from contractor licenses but are never used or discussed.
“When I get in office, I’m going to dig into where funds are going and see if we can redirect them in areas that will make a positive impact.”
When I asked Reicherter why he felt that these issues were his responsibility and why he was the one who needed to address the issue. He cited his involvement with the community through coaching, charity, board of directors memberships, and being a businessman as some rationales. But most importantly, he mentioned that being a father gives him a unique stake.
“I see politicians go into office, they get hung up on policies, and they get hung up on agendas that are not affecting our community,” Reicherter said.
His opponent, Tina Polsky, is hung up on some of those agendas. The top issues on her website include advancing LGBTQ+ issues by opposing the Parental Bill of Rights, fighting for women’s rights by allowing minors to have abortions in secret, ending violence through “assault weapon” bans, and opposing Florida’s election security measures.
“The people need someone outside the political world that has no interest in self-gain or being part of some big useless movement,” Reicherter said.
Reicherter believes that because he’s an outsider, has no self-interest in running for elected office, and has no ideological bone to pick that he’s the one who can focus on what matters to the community, to real people.
He chose this road because it was the hard decision.
“Everything comes back to our communities; it comes back to our pocketbooks, comes back to our families. How can we afford to live, how can we afford to raise a good family, how can we give good family values, how can we educate our kids properly, how can we keep them safe in the community and school, and how can we help them prepare for life? Those are essential things, and we need to focus on them more. They may have their place in the other agendas, but they’re taking center stage, and the other critical issues are getting pushed to the side, and I don’t believe things should be that way.”
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