LAKE MARY, Fla. — People who go through tough times during a hurricane or other disasters will now have access to mental health counseling in Seminole County.

  • Seminole emergency shelters will soon have mental health services
  • Goal is to help people during the tough times of a natural disaster
  • Counseling services will be provided free of charge

A deal reached Tuesday by the county will provide those services inside emergency shelters.

Debbie Manderback lives in The Forest in Lake Mary — a community of manufactured homes that is often asked to evacuate during times of disaster. In 2017, she and some of her neighbors went to a hurricane shelter, where she insists it wasn't too bad.

“When we got there, we formed a little community and took up a whole corner," Manderback said with a smile. "We put our beds together, we did activities together, (and) we talked.”

Even with friends close by, there were still times she sat in the shelter concerned.

“There were moments I didn’t feel like laughing," Manderback said. "When the building (was) kind of vibrating, and you were scared, it would have been nice to have a serious conversation with somebody.”

A deal reached by Seminole County leaders will provide those mental health services inside emergency shelters. The county is being a pioneer with this service.

The new program is a deal between The Seminole County Board of County Commissioners and Hispanic Family Counseling, Inc.

Seminole County Emergency Manager Alan Harris says he felt this was a service needed during times of natural disasters.

“It was a gap that we identified here in Seminole County," Harris explained. "I don’t know that any other county has an MOU. I know some have asked for ours once we approve it, so they can model theirs after ours.”

The counseling services provided will be free of charge.