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Florida Planned Parenthood Clinics Expand Their Mental Healthcare Offerings

Smiling woman in white shirt with eyes closed
file photo

Initially telehealth visits in the individual and family counseling arenas will be available and other services will likely be added before long.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and it seems the need for mental health services grows in the wake of the pandemic. Now, a new source for these services has emerged in the form of Southeast and North Florida's Planned Parenthood clinics.

Dr. Karen Peters is Planned Parenthood's Behavioral Health Program Director. She said Florida is among the first in the organization to expand its health care offerings in this direction.

"There are a handful of affiliates throughout the U.S. that have started to try and incorporate behavioral health services."

The prime reason, said Dr. Peters, is almost self-evident.

"There has been greater need for behavioral health services in general. And of course, the pandemic really exacerbated that. So that helped us make the decision to expedite the development of this program to be able to not only offer behavioral health services but offer a level of integration within the medical services and educational services that we offer as well."

Since the advent of COVID, there has been much research on the inordinate impact of the pandemic on young people. Dr. Peters explained they are a prime target for treatment through the program.

"Of course, ages 13-17 need the consent of a parent or guardian to receive counseling services in Florida. But we're working with all ages and there's a lot of information coming out regarding this 'greater impact' on children and young adults. But I think the impact has been there the whole time. I think the adults were just so busy worrying about the logistical and work changes and things like that, that we didn't pay much attention to the fact that kids and young adults have been impacted.

Peters said the initial mental health care offerings through Planned Parenthood are somewhat limited.

"We offer, primarily, individual and family counseling. We do have some group (therapy) options that will be launching probably in the next month or two. We'll be working on some of the logistics and finalizing some topics related to that. But at this point, we're focusing on individual and family therapy because that's where the greatest need seems to lie."

Peters said these services will be available as telehealth appointments, adding everything possible has been done to keep the cost of therapy affordable.

"We are contracted with quite a few health insurance organizations. Some private health insurance as well as some of the Medicaid plans. But we have also offered a significantly reduced rate during the pandemic and that's not a rate we plan to increase. We don't have an end date for that just yet.

And Dr. Peters says a quick phone call or website visit can provide more information.

"For anybody throughout the state, you can call directly at (561) 472-9991. They can also visit our website: ppsenfl.org."

It's one more mental health option to be aware of during this National Mental Health Awareness Month.

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Tom Flanigan has been with WFSU News since 2006, focusing on covering local personalities, issues, and organizations. He began his broadcast career more than 30 years before that and covered news for several radio stations in Florida, Texas, and his home state of Maryland.

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