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In Conversation With Debbie Mason

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Published in the July magazine, In Conversation with Non Profit Leaders features a roundtable discussion among representatives from local non profit organizations. Below is an excerpt from the conversation in which Debbie Mason of Tidewell Foundation and Empath-Stratum Tidewell Hospice shares insight on how her organization has responded to unprecedented grief within the community.

THE PANDEMIC WILL CAST A LONG SHADOW IN TERMS OF NON-ILLNESS RELATED REPERCUSSIONS—ESPECIALLY ON MENTAL HEATLH, WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE AREAS OF NEED? 

We established early on that people were not being able to process grief in a normal way and that grief was expanded to many other topics beyond death. It was loss of routine, loss of connectivity, loss of normalcy, and so we very quickly established a 24/7 bilingual community helpline so that our trained therapists could work with people who were feeling alone or isolated or whatever they might be feeling. We also realized that people wanted ways to continue to process grief so we expanded the number of groups that we work with in the community and started obviously doing those electronically via Zoom. We’ve been the community’s grief service provider for 40 years for free for everything, whether people have a miscarriage or a car wreck or whatever travesty comes to them and their family and so we were able to really expand our free services to people and also where appropriate, we’re still doing in-person services safely, distanced and masked and all of those things. We’ve also realized that there’s this collective grief and so in May we’ve done two free community collective grief ceremonies, one in Sarasota County, one in Manatee County, and then Charlotte and DeSoto County in June. People outside, socially distanced, with chairs and masks, and just to collectively have a sense of peace followed by a meditation walk. Of course we also have our Blue Butterfly program for children. It is the only evidence-based program that offers free services to children and their family when they’ve lost an immediate family member. So the demand for that exploded and fortunately we were able to have some grantors that helped us expand our offerings of those throughout the four county region so there are lots of partners doing lots of good work and that’s just an example of Tidewell’s work in that area. Schools call us in, employers call us in, every time there’s a community disaster, our mental health leaders are there and provide continuity to families. 

This is an excerpt from the In Conversation with Non Profit Leaders published in the July 2021 edition of SRQ Magazine. Click here to see the full article. 

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