Martin County earmarks $500,000 in CARES Act funds for mental health

Money will help programs like Project Lift
Posted at 9:08 AM, Oct 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-16 09:08:40-04

PALM CITY, Fla. — In the past three months, 40% of the calls made to Martin County's 211 helpline involved mental health or addiction issues.

Now, the county is putting $500,000 in CARES Act funds towards aiding those who need help.

In a Palm City warehouse, Joshua Walker and Ty Stapleton are in the middle of a welding job.

"It gives you an opportunity way easier than if you were trying to do it by yourself," Stapleton said.

"I was doing the wrong things, hanging out with the wrong crowd," Walker added.

The two are part of Project Lift.

With locations in Palm City and Belle Glade, it teaches young adults various trades.

They are referred to Project Lift either through the court system or school guidance counselors.

Bob Zaccheo started the program a decade ago. A licensed psychotherapist, he tried to find a new way to connect with teens.

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"A 16-year-old boy doesn't really talk that much," Zaccheo said. "So you say, 'How are you today?' and they say, 'Fine. Good.' You get one-word answers. So how do I get them to open up a little more? We do something like this."

It started with automotive repair and expanded into screen printing, welding, heating and air-conditioning training, and even tiny home construction.

Boys and girls, paid for their work, developing trust and put on the right track.

Project Lift serves about 400 kids annually with another 60 on the waiting list. Those kids will be able to come off the waiting list thanks to some new money from Martin County.

Carol Houwaart-Diez with the United Way said the county is providing $500,000 in CARES Act funds for places like Project Lift, which provides mental health and other counseling services.

"Whether it's in group therapy or individual counseling, telehealth or in person, this will be available at no cost to community members," Houwaart-Diez said.

Zaccheo said the decision to stay open during the early days of the coronavirus crisis was important.

"The groups that we work with, the biggest issues we're seeing are increase in suicide, increase in drug overdoses," he said. "That is the real pandemic."

For more information on the agencies getting the money, click the links below: