“Forty-eight is actually an improvement from where we were,” said Denise Whitfield, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness – or NAMI – Pinellas County. “We normally ticker between 49 and 50. So moving to the 48 slot, that’s an improvement for us, but we are still very low on the totem pole. It all comes down to funding.” According to the nonprofit Mental Health America, Florida ranks 48th in the nation for access to mental health services. Whitfield said there are a number of programs aimed at helping those with mental illness in Pinellas County and surrounding areas, but more are needed. She said funding at all levels is a huge piece of that.
Bedy is working with the mental health services program located at the CVS on Bryan Dairy Rd. in Largo. She said in the month since it launched, she’s seen a number of patients seek help due to pandemic-related issues. “Right now, if I was going to refer someone to a mental health provider in the community…it could take up to three months for them to get their very first appointment,” said Bedy.
“Some people just need to be able to talk to someone about going back to school, going back to work, going back to regular community environments,” Bedy said. “There’s been so much social distancing, wearing of masks. This is entirely different for many of our Tampa Bay area community members. So, maybe you’ve never needed mental health before, but now, suddenly, you realize your anxiety is very strong or your depression is very strong.” Tampa is among the first areas nationwide to see the launch of CVS mental health services
Program aims to connect people to mental health services quickly
To learn more or schedule an appointment, visit this website
Whitfield said community-based advocating for organizations and services on behalf of loved ones or themselves is one way to send a message to elected officials about the need for funding. At the CVS locations offering mental health services, social workers can provide ongoing counseling, assessments, and referrals if higher levels of care are needed. Bedy said patients are usually able to get an appointment within a day or two of making initial contact. She said signs you or a loved one may need to seek help can include anxiety about leaving the house, changes in eating or sleeping, and not engaging in activities you once enjoyed. Walk-ins are welcome to get the process started, and appointments can be made by calling 1-855-417-2486 or visiting cvs.com/mentalhealth. Telehealth appointments are also available. Stores offering mental health services are located at: — Sarah Blazonis (@SarahBlazonis) May 6, 2021
I spoke with the executive director of @NamiPinellas about what access to mental health services is like here in #TampaBay. She said there are great organizations providing quality resources, but more is needed – especially where funding is concerned. @BN9 pic.twitter.com/UvGzqjv8Gb “It’s nonprofits like NAMI — we are the ones that are the boots on the ground and are providing free services because we know that individuals cannot afford, sometimes, their mental health services, so we provide free services. We rely on donations. We rely on funding in order to keep our programs up and running, along with our other community-based partners. So, it stems from federal down to state down to local.”
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