GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Concerns are growing about the availability of mental health care options on the coast after news of a Gulfport mental health facility's plan to stop its outpatient services.
The Winters are one of the families now looking for a new mental health care provider for their 10-year-old daughter after finding out they have only weeks until Gulfport Behavioral Health closes the doors to its outpatient clinics. "We don't have a lot of options around here at all. So having to find a new facility is going to be very difficult," said Julie Winters.
They say a pamphlet of providers can become just a small list once they narrow it down to those who fit their needs and treat children. The biggest challenge is finding someone their daughter can connect with as she does with her current therapist.
"She's comfortable with them. They know her entire history, they know what she's been through. To have to find somebody else to go to and go through that all over again is very upsetting," said Winters.
Licensed professional counselor Casey Bearss says that can be one of the biggest challenges. "That relationship is important because oftentimes, you're talking about and dealing with things that you don't want to deal with," he said.
He and his wife opened a private practice after seeing a need for more mental health care options on the Coast. He says though there seem to be few choices, its all about not giving up. "Just because they're closing, doesn't mean there aren't other options. Even if a therapist or a counselor is fully booked or can't take you on, a lot of times they have connections that can help point you in the right direction or maybe even a better fit for what you're looking for," said Bearss.
He, like other providers on the coast, are expecting to see increased demand in the coming weeks.
Directors at the non-profit Gulf Coast Mental Health Center say they're prepared to grow as needed. They serve four counties including Harrison, offering outpatient services for adults and children, and a mobile crisis response team. "So we're available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and we're here to help anybody that has any mental health needs. Children, adults, anybody that needs us," said executive director Shelley Foreman.
When it comes to finding the right provider, the Winters said its all about taking it one day at a time. "Just keep on trucking. Moving forward," said Winters.
Those looking for a provider in their area can visit the Mississippi Department of Mental Health website for a list of certified providers. The Mental Health Care Association of South Mississippi also provides assistance to connect patients to resources.