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Singing River Services to target oil spill mental health issues

by April M. Havens. The Mississippi Press

PASCAGOULA, Miss. — There are a lot of people “suffering under the radar” due to the Deepwater Horizon explosion, oil spill and suffering economy in Jackson County, mental health leaders told the Jackson County Board of Supervisors during its regular board meeting Monday.

Sherman Blackwell, executive director of Singing River Services, said his organization is hoping to develop a new program to target those individuals.

Singing River Services’ 175 employees currently serve about 4,000 individuals in Jackson and George counties, Blackwell said. The organization has about 40 active programs and plans to create a new one if some BP funds come through.

Blackwell said he has written a proposal for about $4 million of the $12 million BP gave to Mississippi and believes “we’ll get a good portion of that money.”

The money would be used to create a 20-month program that would hire 25 new staff members to canvas the area and seek out those who have suffered from mental conditions due to the oil spill that began April 20.

“A lot of these people would not feel comfortable going to a community mental health facility because of the stigma,” Blackwell said, so the group would instead go to them.

The funds would not be given to victims but rather used to hire and train new mental health staff, he said.

Blackwell said regular clients’ mental health conditions were “exacerbated” by the oil spill and further intensified by the subsequent five-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005.

Immediately after the spill, Singing River Services designated two crisis therapists and two case managers to deal with spill-related issues.

“The BP spill will have long-term esoteric kinds of effects that we’ll continue to monitor,” Blackwell said.

Source: Singing River Services to target oil spill mental health issues | gulflive.com

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