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Improved access to mental health services in Tampa Bay is a step closer to reality. Tampa Bay Thrives has hired Vibrant Emotional Health to begin offering services mid-summer in Hillsborough County.

The navigation services pilot will provide 24/7 immediate access to mental health navigation through a dedicated phone line staffed by mental health professionals who will assess needs and direct people to the right help.

“Depression, anxiety and substance use were increasing before the pandemic, which exponentially spiked mental health issues,” said Tommy Inzina, president & CEO of BayCare Health Systems and chairman of the board of Tampa Bay Thrives. “We know the need, and we’re working to start services as soon as possible.”

Vibrant Emotional Health, a New York City-based organization in operation for more than 50 years that offers similar assistance across the country. Examples of its involvement includes NYC Well, which offers phone, text or chat options to individuals in New York City reaching out in distress. This short video is an overview of NYC Well, which has answered more than 1 million calls, texts and chats in four years

“The new crisis hotlines and services we’re bringing will strengthen the mental health safety net in Tampa Bay,” said Carrie Zeisse, president & CEO of Tampa Bay Thrives. “We’re going to provide 24/7 support through a variety of services to help meet the area’s demand for help with mental health and substance use.”

Tampa Bay Thrives’ effort is set to begin this summer with the pilot navigation program in Hillsborough County, with plans to expand into Pasco, Pinellas and Polk counties in 2022.

If you or someone you love needs help right now, the SAMHSA National Helpline provides free, confidential referrals and information 24/7 at 1-800-622-HELP.