Central Florida Nonprofit Seeks To Make Impact On Mental Health And Homelessness

Due to Covid-19, Park Place is looking to do more appointments and sessions through a hybrid method of telehealth services. Photo by National Cancer Institute.

Ianna Fenton, Howard University News Service

Park Place Behavioral Health Care Center is a nonprofit organization geared towards helping those battling substance abuse through inpatient/outpatient care and helps them through a 28-day program should they choose to receive it. Park Place has been assisting the Osceola county and the Central Florida area for over 40 years and the ongoing pandemic has not stopped the organization’s efforts to serve the community. 

Michael Harris, clinical director of substance use services, describes what a day in the facility looks like. “We have psychologists, therapists, social workers, case managers, etc. We work in the community by going out to hospitals to even help hospitals with people that need referrals to our facility to certain services that we offer; so on a day-to-day basis we are doing the facility itself. It’s a lot because we have so many different programs. We serve such a large spectrum of services, ” he said. Harris oversees about 50 percent of the facility and his management also includes figuring out different ways of reaching patients while in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. This includes telehealth which is reaching clients remotely through HIPA compliant service such as Zoom sessions and over the phone appointments. 

Assistant director of inpatient/ outpatient services, Melissa Tirado works as a court liaison and client advocation so her day-to-day is usually filled with court hearings and other services to clients to make sure they get where they need to be. The organization not only works with substance abuse but also mental health conditions and even works to provide them more permanent housing even after the program is completed. 

Tirado finds that though the organization has a number of programs and resources, more intensive services as well as more space for inpatient services is definitely needed. 

This is compliant with the statement made by assessor and social worker, Kermin Fenton who plays a vital role in this as she works to assess each client’s needs to provide an individualized plan of care. She explains that the majority of clients she sees start their substance abuse from a very young age and usually under peer pressure. An increase in inpatient services would mean a higher admission rate of clients and a higher chance of more people getting clean and back on their feet.  Fenton is also an advocate for Telehealth stating that it is a better option because many times the people they help do not have reliable transportation or do not feel comfortable coming into the facility. 

Though Harris, Tirado and Fenton all work face to face with clients and others on a daily basis, Covid-19 precautions are taken for extra safety. Masks and social distancing is required as well as constant sanitation. Park Place does extremely well in serving the community and actively being engaged with the people they serve, however, they do have its share of monetary challenges being a nonprofit organization . The main challenge that all three interviewees agreed on was funding. The organization does get government funding and got an extra stimulus after the pandemic became more prominent but they still have to constantly prove that they need the funding for their programs and to keep their employees employed as well as a decline in outpatient services. 

In the future, Harris admits that because of Covid, more appointments and sessions can be held remotely and says that even after Covid, there will be a hybrid method of telehealth services to clients that includes Zoom and phone sessions to get them the services they need. Park Place continues to serve the community and grants those who are struggling with mental health issues, substance abuse, and situations in between the assistance they need to actively get better.

Editor’s Note: Kermin Fenton is related to the writer.