First Lady Casey DeSantis Announces Florida’s First Disaster Recovery Mental Health Coordinator has been Hired and will be Deployed to Northwest Florida
Today, First Lady Casey DeSantis announced that the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) has hired Darcy Abbott as the first Disaster Recovery Mental Health Coordinator in Florida's history. The First Lady made the announcement at the Florida Behavioral Health Association's 'Behavioral Health Day' event at the Florida Capitol which strives to raise awareness for mental illness and substance abuse disorders.
In June, First Lady DeSantis announced that the Division would be hiring a Mental Health Coordinator, becoming one of the first such positions in the country to focus solely on helping communities obtain critical mental health services following a disaster. Ms. Abbott will be on-boarded at the Division and deployed to Bay County to assist with coordinating mental health services for those impacted by Hurricane Michael.
“I am looking forward to the good work Darcy Abbott will provide for the people of Northwest Florida as they continue to recover,” said First Lady DeSantis. “This role is just one piece of our continued efforts to make these communities feel whole again. The distress a disaster can have on residents is just as impactful as the physical destruction left behind, and we will continue to provide much-needed support as we develop and implement various mental health services.”
Photo Credit: Governor’s Press Office
“Hurricane Michael created a mental health crisis in the Panhandle at a magnitude this state had never experienced before,” said FDEM Director Jared Moskowitz. “Thousands of families lost their homes overnight, and children watched as their parents struggled to find jobs and their friends moved away. To combat this crisis, we needed to create a solution never conceived before. The First Lady recognized this, and we are proud to have hired a position that is the first of its kind in the nation, setting the bar for the rest of the country and making mental health a top priority in disaster recovery.”
This year, First Lady DeSantis has announced several state-led efforts to provide mental health support services to communities impacted by Hurricane Michael, including:
- The installation of telehealth portals for mental health services in 63 public schools throughout six counties in Northwest Florida;
- The expansion of the Florida Department of Children and Families Crisis Counselling Program;
- An award of $1.25 million by the U.S. Department of Education to Bay County for the expansion of licensed school social workers and paraprofessionals; and
- FDEM’s efforts to secure100 travel trailers from FEMA, at no cost to the state, to provide immediate relief to those looking for housing.
Today’s announcement is part of First Lady DeSantis’ Hope for Healing Florida campaign, which strives to combine the resources and efforts of the public and private sectors to better serve Floridians struggling with mental health and substance abuse.
Darcy Abbott has nearly 30 years of experience in the field of Social Work, is a Florida Licensed Clinical Social Worker and has proven her capability to support disaster victims in need of mental health counseling. Her first experience with a disaster was in 1972, when Ms. Abbott and her family were impacted by Hurricane Agnes, which caused flooding throughout much of the Northeastern United States. In 1992, she assisted public health responders and victims of Hurricane Andrew through the Florida Department of Health.
She has served the State of Florida as an Administrator for the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration’s Bureau of Medicaid Quality, a Bureau Chief for the Florida Department of Health’s Bureau of Chronic Disease Prevention and has worked in the Florida Department of Children and Families’ Office of Family Safety. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Social Work from Rochester Institute of Technology and her Master of Social Work from Marywood University in Pennsylvania.