New counseling center at FGCU aims to provide mental healthcare at an affordable price

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FGCU Student and Community Counseling Center (WINK News)

Access to mental healthcare in Florida is not good.

Last year, the state ranked 44th, according to Mental Health America.

The map below shows the ratio of population to mental health providers in the state.

Map showing access to mental health care across Florida (WINK News)

A lot of Southwest Florida is in the red, which shows a severe lack of access. But Florida Gulf Coast University is taking that challenge head-on.

“It’s quite clear that stresses in life are rising,” said David Pezzullo, a counselor in training at FGCU’s new Student and Community Counseling Center.

“I think for a lot of people listening, this might be a great opportunity,” he said.

An opportunity for SWFL to get the mental health services that can be hard to find and cost a lot.

“We wanted to be certain that our services were accessible to everyone in the community,” said Alise Bartley, the director of the center.

She says the center is an affordable option for people who need counseling.

They don’t take insurance, but it’ll cost you about $25 an hour or whatever you make an hour—whichever is less.

And it’s not just for adults. The center is also designed for kids, equipt with a sandbox and emojis to help kids express themselves after they’ve been through some trauma.

How are you feeling today emojis (WINK News)

“Instead of just having one counselor, they’re going to have several to get the best services possible,” said Bartley.

The center will also offer mental health services to Lee County Schools’ students, which could be a big help since one in five Americans say someone in their home can’t get mental healthcare due to the cost.

We asked CBS Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Jon Lapook about the situation.

“We would never tell anyone to snap out of diabetes or asthma. We tell people to snap out of your mental illness. You can’t do that,” Lapook said.

So the leaders at FGCU hope the new center will train future counselors to meet the need, all while offering hope to patients who need it now.

“We wanted to be certain that our services were accessible to everyone in the community,” said Bartley.

The center opens next Friday and will be open for clients on Mondays and Thursdays from 1 to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

As they train future counselors to meet the growing needs of the community here, “I hope this opens the door for a whole new trend,” says Pezzullo.

And hopefully, a trend upwards in access to mental health services in a state that so desperately needs it.

The center offers help with English and Spanish-speaking counselors.

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