For the first time, Florida will have a Disaster Recovery Mental Health Coordinator.
First Lady Casey DeSantis, in remarks to the Florida Behavioral Health Association Wednesday, announced that Darcy Abbott was hired to the post.
“I am looking forward to the good work Darcy Abbott will provide for the people of Northwest Florida as they continue to recover,” Mrs. DeSantis said.
“This role is just one piece of our continued efforts to make these communities feel whole again. The distress a disaster can have on residents is just as impactful as the physical destruction left behind, and we will continue to provide much-needed support as we develop and implement various mental health services.”
Abbott, a social worker with 30 years of experience, has dealt specifically with mental health issues after disasters.
In 1972, her own family survived Hurricane Agnes, which caused flooding up and down the Eastern seaboard. She also assisted in the response to Hurricane Andrew in 1992 when that historic storm struck South Florida.
The newly-created post became a priority of the administration as it dealt with the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. The Category 5 storm struck the Panhandle last October.
“Hurricane Michael created a mental health crisis in the Panhandle at a magnitude this state had never experienced before,” said Jared Moskowitz, director of the Florida Department of Emergency Management.
“Thousands of families lost their homes overnight, and children watched as their parents struggled to find jobs and their friends moved away.
“To combat this crisis, we needed to create a solution never conceived before. The First Lady recognized this, and we are proud to have hired a position that is the first of its kind in the nation, setting the bar for the rest of the country and making mental health a top priority in disaster recovery.”
DeSantis, speaking at Behavioral Health Day in the Capitol, outlines other specific assistance for Michael victims that improve access to mental health care.
That includes telehealth portals in 63 Northwest Florida public schools, expansion of the Florida Department of Children and Families Crisis Counseling Program, a $1.25 million Department of Education grant to Bay County to expand licensed school social workers, and efforts to secure more travel trailers to provide housing relief.