Round-the-clock mental-health services available for those touched

by Surfside collapse | Opinion

Article appeared on July 21, 2021 in the Miami Herald

BY MIRIAM SINGER AND JOHN W. NEWCOMER

JULY 20, 2021 04:33 PM

As we mourn the people who lost their lives in the Surfside condo collapse, an unspeakable tragedy, we are grateful for the miracle of those who survived and for selfless first responders.

First responders from Miami-Dade County, the state of Florida, Red Cross, FEMA and other U.S. and international teams, including from Israel and Mexico, worked together to rescue loved ones from our community. We are eternally grateful for their efforts. Coordinated efforts with local, state, federal and private sources have remained in place to support victims, families and first responders.

The county’s safety-net mental-health infrastructure has a long track record of emergency response during hurricanes and other disasters, with valuable support by Florida Department of Children & Families (DCF). Between disasters, Thriving Mind South Florida, with support from DCF and federal, state, county and private funding, provides local, accountable, nonprofit access to mental-health and substance-use services for uninsured individuals living below 200% of the federal poverty level.

Like the other six DCF-supported managing entities around the state, Thriving Mind South Florida manages this safety-net system with less than 5% overhead.

Whether responding to a tragedy in conjunction with fire rescue or law enforcement, or providing daily support for mental-health and substance-use disorder services in our communities, Florida’s behavioral-health safety-net services are here for individuals and families in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. And that’s how it should be.

Jewish Community Services of South Florida, with a 100-year history, is a critical safety-net healthcare provider organization in our community and was on site in Surfside immediately with services for trauma counseling, mental-health crisis support, case-management services and other support for shock and grief. JCS clinicians and other faith-based partners offered one-stop supportive services.

Thriving Mind, JCS, DCF, Miami-Dade County, Red Cross, the Florida Department of Emergency Management, Florida Blue and other partners continue to address the evolving needs of those affected.

We encourage anyone who needs mental-health services to call 211, which, in Miami-Dade County, is a JCS program supported by Thriving Mind, DCF, The Children’s Trust and other sources. At 211, free crisis counseling and information and referral services are available from any phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. We offer these services in English, Spanish and Creole, as well as translation services for any other language. In partnership with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 211 Miami is a back-up center for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and answers calls, chats and texts in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties and nationwide.

Mental health is just as important as physical health, and we have been and always will be here for those in need.

John W. Newcomer, M.D., is president and CEO of Thriving Mind. Miriam Singer is president and CEO of Jewish Community Services of South Florida.

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