US: Florida names its first mental health coordinator for hurricanes, disaster recovery

Source(s): Miami Herald, McClatchy Company

by Elizabeth Koh Herald

The Florida Division of Emergency Management is hiring Darcy Abbott, a longtime state health official, as its first mental health coordinator for recovery efforts after hurricanes and other disasters, touting it as the first statewide position of its kind in emergency management in the country.


Abbott’s job, which reports to Moskowitz, will involve addressing mental health needs in communities after natural disasters like hurricanes and coordinating mental health services across several of the state’s agencies that deal with behavioral health. It will also include developing a recovery mental health and crisis counseling outreach program for communities most affected by disasters.

The creation of the new position was announced in June as part of a broader mental health effort being touted by First Lady Casey DeSantis, in response to Hurricane Michael’s devastation in the Panhandle last year. Local officials said after the storm that the region needed significantly more help to treat an uptick in mental health issues, particularly among children.


One of Abbott’s first tasks will be coordinating the existing mental health recovery effort in the Panhandle, where officials say needs remain acute. The state sent counselors and temporary housing to the region earlier this summer, and installed telehealth portals in every public school in six affected counties — Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gulf, Jackson and Liberty counties —to connect children to mental health services.

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