The devastation caused by Hurricane Ian will have reverberating effects on our state for years to come. Reports and videos of our communities ravaged by death and destruction are seen around the world alongside continuing stories about events like the war in Ukraine and the COVID pandemic.

Florida is a grieving state, battling a mental health crisis fueled in large part by an unrelenting opioid epidemic that has wreaked havoc on our communities and our collective psyches.

Hurricane Ian has added a new layer of misery to parts of our state, affecting healthcare facilities across Florida and making it difficult for medically vulnerable people to get the care they need.

The aftermath of the storm includes lingering damage to the mental health of many Floridians. Many who lived through the storm or were indirectly affected are experiencing traumatic reactions to coping with the losses. These responses include shock, depression, grief, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

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Feelings of hopelessness, exhaustion and physical health symptoms are common responses that accompany the impact of such natural disasters. Those suffering from mental health impacts may appear numb and emotionless. They may have nightmares and suffer from anxiety and restlessness.

Florida ranks second in the nation in terms of the prevalence of mental illness and the number of our citizens who die from drug overdoses. We are ranked 49th nationally for access to mental health care, according to the 2022 State of Mental Health in America report.

These grim statistics, combined with the impacts of Hurricane Ian, are why mental health professionals in Florida are applauding the recent announcement that federal authorities have allocated more than $314 million to help train and place counselors. in mental health in crisis units and schools. This comes after Governor Ron DeSantis last spring allocated more than $120 million in new recurring revenue to community mental health and addiction services.

Although our state and federal leaders have recognized the mental health crisis facing Florida, these complex, multi-layered issues will not be resolved quickly. We must continue to focus on reducing the stigma around help-seeking, building a stable and sustainable behavioral health workforce, and leveraging innovation and technology to address trauma. individual and community groups.


Dr. Christine Cauffield, CEO, LSF Health Systems, Jacksonville

This guest column is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of The Times-Union. We welcome a diversity of opinions.