Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
HNF Stories
Every day, hundreds of sick and injured patients walk into free and charitable clinics around the Tampa Bay area in need of a doctor.Many are suffering from chronic conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Some patients were referred to the clinics by staff at hospitals where they landed after years of neglecting to care for treatable conditions.The clinics allow the patients to pay what they can, or nothing at all. They are staffed by doctors and nurses who volunteer their time. They survive off donations and small grants.Many of the patients have jobs but they are living paycheck to paycheck. None have health insurance, either because they do not qualify for Medicaid or can’t afford private coverage. For these patients, the clinics are often their only option for primary care.

'We're Going To Need Resources': Parkland Cares Awards First Grants For Mental Health

Members from Parkland Cares gathered local mental health organizations at Cypresshead, a neighborhood development in Parkland, to distribute the grants.
Members from Parkland Cares gathered local mental health organizations at Cypresshead, a neighborhood development in Parkland, to distribute the grants.

The organization  Parkland Cares, founded in the wake of the February mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, awarded its first three grants to local mental health service providers Mondy, totaling $75,000. 

The Children's Bereavement Center, Behavioral Health Associates of Broward and Henderson Behavioral Health each received checks for $25,000, which will go directly to creating services, subsidizing services, or making counseling more accessible for residents. 

"The necessary funding is not going to come from the government to help these people, it's not going to come from insurance companies," said Howard Dvorkin, the chairman of Debt.com and the founder of Parkland Cares. "What is necessary is long-term therapy, and unfortunately there's not a lot of funding available for that in the United States."

The organizations were chosen to receive the grants based on counseling demand and how active they have been in the community since the shooting, Dvorkin said. 

Read More: How A New Organization Is Connecting Parkland Shooting Survivors To The Right Therapists

The Children's Bereavement Center will use its share of the funds to start a weekly support group at Heron Heights Elementary school in Parkland. The support groups will be free and split up by age group. The center will also offer a support group just for teachers and school staff.

"Our groups are really an opportunity for families, children and adults to find coping strategies and build some hope for themselves - build a hope for the future and build resilience," said Daniel Sheridan, the center's clinical director.

Katelyn Gimbel, center, and Daniel Sheridan, center right, from the Children's Bereavement Center, stand with Parkland Founder Howard Dvorkin to accept their grant. It will fund a free support group for Parkland residents.
Credit Caitie Switalski / WLRN
Katelyn Gimbel, center, and Daniel Sheridan, center right, from the Children's Bereavement Center, stand with Parkland Founder Howard Dvorkin to accept their grant. It will fund a free support group for Parkland residents.

Another recipient,  The Behavioral Health Associates of Broward, is run by Goodman Jewish family Services and provides services in Parkland and Davie. 

It will use the grant money to immediately subsidize over 150 hours of counseling sessions with the organization's two psychologists that specialize in trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Patients can be seen at any of the two locations. 

"These individuals, who don't have insurance, or who have insurance and cannot afford the deductible or are struggling - they're able to see these qualified individuals and get the care that they need," said President and CEO Lisa Rahman. 

Henderson Behavioral Health's CEO Steven Ronik noted that his institution will use the funds for "care coordination," or matching residents to the services they need.

"Even if services are available, sometimes it can be a little complicated if you're not familiar with how to access services," Ronik said. "We're going to help coordinate that process."

Confessed-shooter Nikolas Cruz received services at Henderson in 2016. But Ronik said that is irrelevant.

"We hadn't had any contact or connection to Mr. Cruz for over a year before the horrible tragedy," he said. 

At a ceremony for the grantees Monday, City of Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschofsky said she believes the organizations are starting to tackle an ongoing problem in the community.

"There are many wonderful stories out there: the kids on a national level, the students, and how the community has come together," she said. "But what a lot of people aren't talking about is the trauma that's been left behind. We're going to need resources."

Parkland Cares is planning to award more grants to fund mental health services in the Parkland area at the end of 2018.

Copyright 2020 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit WLRN 91.3 FM.