ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. — The death of country music legend Naomi Judd is shining a light again on mental health issues. Over the weekend, Judd's family said they lost their mother to the disease of mental illness.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
Lewis Baker had a good job in construction but could tell his life wasn’t in balance. He sought help and now helps others as a peer counselor.
"I always provide motivation for them. I always provide for them where to go and who to call. I always encourage them never to be ashamed of themselves because they’re dealing with a mental illness," Baker said.
Baker met us Monday at New Horizons of the Treasure Coast in St. Lucie County, which serves 15,000 children and adults throughout the Treasure Coast and Okeechobee County.
"I really think it’s important we look at mental health as health," said Kathryn Beverly with New Horizons.
Beverly said the COVID-19 pandemic sparked a big increase in the need for help.
"We’re seeing people diagnosed with major mental illness, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia," Beverly said.
The non-profit is continuously looking to improve its services, remodeling a satellite building into the Fort Pierce Learning Center, where adults transitioning from homelessness can learn basic living skills.
Since COVID, 67% of all New Horizons clients either didn’t have a steady income or have health insurance, but that didn’t prevent them from getting the services they needed, because no one is turned away from the area’s largest mental health agency, regardless of ability to pay, or age.
"We do have our CCSU, which is our Childrens’ Crisis Stabilization Unit. We are able to provide emergency psychiatric care," Beverly said.
There’s also a mobile response team that can meet over the phone or in person 24/7.
Baker said he’s just one part of the bigger solution.
"I feel like I'm on top of the world. Every day I come to do 1,000% of my job," Baker said.
For more information about New Horizons of the Treasure Coast, click here or call 772-468-3909.
You can also call Florida's 211 Hotline if you or someone you know are in need of mental health services.