U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell stops to lend a hand at a food drive at Founders Park in Islamorada in May. KEYS WEEKLY FILE PHOTO

A federal grant is going to support continued mental and substance use disorder treatment, crisis counseling and other supportive care to those in the Keys impacted by COVID-19. 

U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell announced Thursday that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is providing an $800,000 grant to the Guidance Care Center in the Florida Keys. Sept. 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day, and during Suicide Awareness Month, Mucarsel-Powell said she’s glad the federal grant is going toward building mental health resources in Monroe County, which has one of highest rates of suicide in the state. 

“We’re all experiencing a nationwide trauma during this pandemic, and our communities need to have organizations and partners who are ready to help people,” Mucarsel-Powell said. “I will continue fighting for more resources for our community because suicide prevention requires a comprehensive approach, from sharing the suicide hotline, to expanding our mental health workforce and resources so everyone, regardless of their zip code, has access to mental health care.” 

Funding to the Guidance Care Center in the Keys will increase availability and access to free mental health services to prevent suicide and suicide attempts among adults ages 25 and older, said Maureen Dunleavy, Guidance Care Center regional vice president.

“This is critical because state funding is limited, and we have 48% of our community who are uninsured and underinsured, and we know the greatest risk of suicide for our county is housing costs/availability, which is exacerbated by this pandemic and Hurricane Irma,” Dunleavy said. “We are so grateful for this opportunity to save lives in our community.”

In the U.S., suicide is the second-leading cause of death for people ages 10-34 and the fourth-leading cause of death for people 35-54. The overall suicide rate in the U.S. has increased by 31% since 2001. While half of individuals who die by suicide have a diagnosed mental health condition, research shows that 90% experienced symptoms of a mental health condition. 

Free help in the Keys is available 24 hours a day. Call 305-434-7660, option 8.

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