This week, First Lady Casey DeSantis and the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) announced the appointment of Sara Newhouse as the State Disaster Recovery Mental Health Coordinator.
“The ripple effect of a disaster goes beyond physical destruction to include grief and distress in a community, and I am proud that Florida continues to lead on the mental well-being aspects of recovery,” said First Lady DeSantis. “Sara’s unique experience in victim advocacy and psychological first aid prepared her for this role. I look forward to continuing to work with FDEM to provide additional mental health support for Floridians who find themselves in emergency situations.”
“The State Disaster Recovery Mental Health Coordinator plays a vital role in the disaster process by ensuring help is available to survivors and first responders,” said FDEM Director Kevin Guthrie. “The Division is proud to have the State Disaster Recovery Mental Health Coordinator and I want to thank the First Lady for her ongoing leadership in securing mental health resources for disaster survivors and first responders.”
Under the First Lady’s leadership, the State Disaster Recovery Mental Health Coordinator position was created in 2019 to focus solely on helping communities obtain critical mental health services following a disaster.
Since 2019, the State Disaster Recovery Mental Health Coordinator has provided mental health services and coordinated mental health resources in disasters including the Naval Air Station Pensacola shooting, the Surfside Building Collapse, and the state’s COVID-19 response.
Newhouse is a Florida Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a State of Florida Victim Services Practitioner with more than a decade of experience in victim advocacy and crisis counseling.
Previously, she served as a Victim Advocate for the Tallahassee Police Department. In this role, she provided psychological first aid and critical incident stress management to survivors and responders of disasters, including the 2018 Tallahassee Hot Yoga shooting and Hurricane Michael. She has also held positions with the Bay Pines Veteran Administration Healthcare Center and the Florida State University Victim Advocate Program. She has received numerous recognitions for her victim advocacy work, including the Charles Morris Victim Advocate of the Year Award from the Big Bend Victim Assistance Coalition, the Civilian Employee of the Year award from the Tallahassee Police Department, and the Distinguished Victim Services Award from Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody. Newhouse earned her Bachelor of Social Work and her Master of Social Work from Florida State University. She also serves on the Florida Crisis Response Team, the Domestic Violence Coordinating Council, and the Big Bend Mental Health Coalition.
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