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Expanding mental health help for first responders

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Funding for programs that provide peer-to-peer mental health services for law enforcement, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), and firefighters has been expanded by $12 million under a plan unveiled by Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis during a round-table meeting at the Tampa Firefighters Museum on Dec. 3.

“The average person sees two to three traumatic events in a lifetime, but if you’re a first responder you see something like 180 of these traumatic events over the course of your career if not more,” Casey DeSantis said. “That takes an emotional and mental toll not only on (first responders) but also on (their) families.”

The increased funding will boost peer-to-peer services listed on the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) First Responder Resiliency resource page. The page offers telephone or text resources connecting first responders or members of their families with other first responders who can offer immediate emotional support and can direct them to other mental health counseling services.

The peer-to-peer aspect of the resource is critical, Casey DeSantis said.

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“Being a (first responder) veteran, when you answer the phone and there is a veteran on the other end of the line, you have that connection that other people might not have, and it makes a world of difference,” she stated.

The increase is the latest in the DeSantis administration’s support for mental health services including funding for crisis counseling services through Florida’s 2-1-1 crisis hotline and other mental health assistance programs.

For more information about prevention and intervention services for first responders and their families, visit
First Responder Resiliency – Florida Department of Children and Families (myflfamilies.com).

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