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SMA Healthcare (SMA) and the SMA Healthcare Foundation recently announced that Florida Power & Light (FPL) has donated $10,000 to assist with a collaborative program between SMA and the Volusia Sheriff’s Office (VSO).

The check presentation took place Nov. 12 at the SMA Healthcare administrative office. The money will go toward iPads, which will be used to help deputies connect people in need of help with trained mental health counselors and social workers.

“We appreciate FPL’s generosity in providing this donation,” said SMA Chief Operating Officer Rhonda Harvey in a news release. “This will help us tremendously as we continue to move forward in providing lifesaving services to our community.”

According to the release, both SMA and the Sheriff’s Office intend to fully resource a crisis response team to respond to noncriminal emergency 911 calls in an effort to reduce confrontations involving police officers, save money and potentially lives, and allow officers and deputies to concentrate on law enforcement.

The core elements of the program are as follows: 40-hour crisis intervention training for new VSO recruits; mobile response training; a mental health professional who will be assigned to a VSO substation; and telehealth response, which will feature iPads with a secure telehealth platform to connect deputies with a live mental health professional. The iPads would help provide a safer, virtual approach for the mental health workers, particularly with the ongoing pandemic.

Sheriff Mike Chitwood said that by working with SMA, the VSO is getting the right resources in place to handle the kinds of problems so many families call 911 to solve.

“This is just one more tool we can give our deputies to help resolve calls where mental health expertise is crucial,” Chitwood said in the release. “Working together with SMA, we’re doing everything we can to get the right resources in place to address the problems so many families call 911 to solve. I’m really grateful to SMA, the Foundation and FPL for putting a priority on innovative ideas that improve everyone’s safety.”

This program is in addition to all the Crisis Intervention Training VSO is doing, and other areas where the department is working closely with SMA, Chitwood said on his Facebook post.

“We’re still working out the details, but we’re deploying [the iPad program] soon in our largest city, Deltona,” he said in the post.

SMA Healthcare has been providing exceptional behavioral health care to individuals living with addiction, mental illness or both for more than 50 years, according to its website.

SMA provides a wide array of client-oriented services tailored to meet the unique needs of individuals in Volusia, Flagler, Putnam and St. Johns counties.

SMA Healthcare’s Access Center may be reached at 800-539-4228.


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