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Mental Health Funding for Hurricane Michael Survivors Continues

Florida’s first lady said FEMA agreed to use the money to extend its Project Hope program for another 90 days in all counties hit by the hurricane. The program sends mental health counselors to the hardest-hit areas.

(TNS) — Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis announced on Thursday $690,000 to extend a federal mental health program for residents impacted by Hurricane Michael.

During a visit to Bay County, DeSantis said the Federal Emergency Management Agency had agreed to use the money to extend its Project Hope program for another 90 days in all counties hit by the Category 5 hurricane. With the money, the program will continue employing mental health counselors to help people in hardest-hit areas, she said.

"You have a governor who is committed every step of the way to make sure you guys are made whole," DeSantis said to a small crowd of officials in the Bay County Emergency Operations Center. "You have no bigger advocate than the governor and myself."

DeSantis said the new federal aid would keep 41 full-time staff, including 21 crisis counselors, working in areas hit hardest by the storm.

"This program is very unique because it literally puts boots on the ground in the community ... counselors who are meeting with people and knocking on doors," DeSantis said.

Chad Poppell, secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families, said the 90-day program extension would be beneficial for the community.

"We wanted to keep these services going through the school year," Poppell said. "We are with you — we have not forgotten."

Poppell added that the staff involved in the program do whatever they can to assist people in finding the help they need.

"There are folks who might not know where to go for help or might not know that help is even available," Poppell said.

DeSantis' visit is the latest of several announcements she and Gov. Ron DeSantis has made in the county regarding hurricane relief in recent months.

Last year, Casey DeSantis announced funding to install 63 telemedicine kiosks in every school in the Bay District system. The telehealth technology, which was installed in August, connects students and their parents or guardians with mental health providers. The kiosks have large touch screens and cameras and will connect students with providers through a method similar to FaceTime on an iPhone.

And last month, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced $11 million in hurricane aid for the county and the school system.


©2020 The News Herald (Panama City, Fla.)

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