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FEMA Funded Crisis Counselors To Stay Longer In The Panhandle

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Valerie Crowder

More than two dozen federally-funded crisis counselors will remain in the Panhandle’s hardest-hit disaster counties for longer than planned with additional FEMA dollars. 

At a press conference on Thursday, First Lady Casey DeSantis announced the state has received $690,000 to fund 41 Project Hope staff members, including 28 crisis counselors, to continue connecting residents to mental health services, nonprofits and recovery agencies for the next three months. 

“They are literally the boots on the ground in this community,” DeSantis said. “They’re going around meeting people, knocking on doors, letting people know of available resources in the community.” 

 

Crisis counselors will help residents in Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson and Washington Counties, DeSantis said. 

Since Project Hope’s staff began working in the Panhandle, they’ve provided more than 7,800 individual counseling sessions and more than 27,000 group meetings.  

“There’s a lot of work still to be done,” said Chad Poppell, secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families.  “We wanted to keep these services going through the school year.”

The counselors have also contacted support services for residents more than 88,000 times. Poppell says some of the stories from Project Hope staff are "amazing" and "heartwarming." 

“They were going through a neighborhood and came across a woman crying on her front porch - she was blind. Her father had died shortly after the storm. She didn’t have medicine. Her power was about to be cut off,” Poppell said. “Our Project Hope folks came and wrapped themselves around her, got her power situation corrected, got her hooked up with a various number of charities and brought those services to her.”