COVID-19 mental health crisis in Pinellas gets $2.6 million boost in aid

Dr. LaDonna Butler, founder, The Well For Life, is one of nine Pinellas County nonprofits receiving funds to add or enhance programs addressing the mental health effects of COVID-19.

CLEARWATER – Crisis and suicide-related calls surged 47 percent in Pinellas County over this time last year. More than 1,400 residents have sought help from a local COVID-19 Emotional Support Line. Add disproportionate deaths and illnesses in low-income and communities of color, and the pandemic mental health picture gets bleaker.

Now hope has arrived. Pinellas Community Foundation (PCF) announced today that $2.6 million in grant money has been awarded to nine Pinellas County nonprofits to add or enhance programs addressing the mental health effects of COVID-19. Collectively, these program enhancements will reach 5,500 individuals, including first responders, youth and families, average citizens, and anyone experiencing high levels of anxiety and depression.

Among the nine organizations awarded grants are:

Directions for Living, receiving $1.3 million for:

  • Mental Health First Aid Training to empower the community to know what to do when a person is having a mental health crisis, similar to how communities teach CPR.
  • Mental health counseling to 911 Dispatchers experiencing increased anxiety due to COVID-19 and who request counseling.
  • Expansion of Mental Health Unit partnerships with local law enforcement agencies, Telehealth counseling, and Wi-Fi and digital equipment so individuals in crisis who lack necessary tools can access counselors.

The Well For Life and Boys & Girls Club of the Suncoast, receiving $249,627 for: 

  • Mental health counseling at the neighborhood level where 79 percent of the 14,000 kids and teens served by the clubs are persons of color and 89 percent live at the federal poverty level.
  • Mental health counseling sessions for staff to address their needs.

PCF was tapped in August by Pinellas County to administer $30 million in CARES Act funds to nonprofits that serve the community’s needs in the areas of food, homelessness, behavioral health and legal aid for housing. Since August, PCF has awarded a total of $11.5 million to nonprofits, including the $2.6 million to enhance mental health services.

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