Casey DeSantis Announces Additional Mental Health Resources for Floridians Impacted by Hurricane Ian

This week, Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis announced two additional mental health resources that are available for Floridians impacted by Hurricane Ian.

Available now, the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) launched the Family Support Line, which connects individuals and families who were impacted by Hurricane Ian with peers who were impacted and have recovered from Hurricane Michael. Volunteers from the Panhandle will use their personal experiences to provide support, advice and a helping hand to victims of Hurricane Ian. These peers have lived through similar loss and are well acquainted with the road to rebuilding that Southwest Florida is facing. Volunteers will also help direct Hurricane Ian survivors to resources that are available at the state, federal and local level, including information about bridge loans, roof repair, disaster unemployment assistance and disaster SNAP benefits. Individuals who would like to talk with a Family Support Peer can call 888-850-SWFL.

The Florida Department of Health (DOH) and DCF have partnered with BetterHelp to offer mental health services through three months of free online therapy to those impacted by Hurricane Ian. To access these free services, Floridians can visit betterhelp.com/voucher and use code: HurricaneIan. BetterHelp will then prompt impacted Floridians with a questionnaire to best match them with a licensed mental health professional.

These initiatives are in addition to a variety of mental health resources that State Disaster Recovery Mental Health Coordinator Sara Newhouse has gathered for disaster survivors and first responders. All Floridians can find a list of these resources at Florida’s Disaster Mental Health Resources webpage. On this page is a survey to provided targeted mental health assistance to first responders who stepped up to serve on the front lines even if their own home was damaged in the path of Hurricane Ian.

“Floridians in Southwest Florida have weathered the storm but will continue to encounter unseen challenges on the road to recovery,” said First Lady DeSantis. “We are building a network of support for these individuals to connect them with mental health experts and Floridians who have been in their shoes to foster meaningful conversations. Through the Family Support Line, the partnership with BetterHelp and resources provided by the State Disaster Recovery Mental Health Coordinator, we are creating opportunities for people to receive support.”

“I am truly grateful for Governor DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis’ swift leadership in the response and recovery efforts for those impacted by Hurricane Ian,” said DCF Secretary Shevaun Harris. “Use of peer supports is a long standing strategy for helping individuals cope with trauma, and we will continue to have mental health professionals trained in crisis response on the ground in Southwest Florida for as long as needed to support the community.”

“Mental health support should always be a major priority following a disaster, and you are not alone if you are feeling the weight of this tragedy,” said DOH Deputy Secretary for Health Dr. Kenneth Scheppke. “There can be a drastic increase in post-traumatic stress disorder and other negative mental health impacts to public following a disaster. Florida wants to make sure survivors of Ian have readily available access to mental health resources at no cost.”

“We’re honored to work with the Governor’s office to provide free therapy to individuals impacted by Hurricane Ian,” said Alon Matas, the president and founder of BetterHelp. “We’re hopeful that therapy can help many individuals as Florida continues to rebuild and recover.”

“We believe in the strength of people over storms. Northwest Florida stands ready to give back by answering the call for Southwest Florida families”, said Mike Watkins, the CEO of NWF Health Network.

“These resources will help individuals and families as they start their journey to not only recover from the physical damage, but also the emotional damage caused by Hurricane Ian,” said State Mental Health Coordinator Sara Newhouse. “I want to thank our First Lady for her steadfast leadership in prioritizing access to mental health services for disaster survivors and our first responders.”

The new Family Support line will allow families from the impacted areas of Hurricane Ian to access an informal peer support network. Working with the NWF Health Network, volunteers will staff the 888-850-SWFL support line 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Peer supports is highly effective in mitigating anxiety and stress for those experiencing trauma. The Family Support Line is fully integrated with the First Lady’s Hope Florida initiative, allowing the peers to connect Hurricane Ian survivors with Hope Navigators depending on their circumstances.

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call 988 to be connected to the National Suicide Hotline. If you are experiencing or see a life-threatening emergency, please call 911.

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