More undocumented people reach out for mental health help after Florida passes new law
Some Central Florida mental health providers are getting more calls for help from undocumented people after sweeping immigration reform was signed into law last week.
The law would make it a crime to shelter or transport undocumented people. It would also fine businesses who hire undocumented workers.
Brendan Ramirez is the director of Pan American Behavioral Health Services of Central Florida in Orlando. He provides mental health care to undocumented people who are not insured through his work with Hablamos Español.
Ramirez said since Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the immigration bill into law last week, his clinic has seen a marked uptick in calls from people struggling with anxiety.
“You know, we have to put ourselves in those shoes and think, not only are you working two and three jobs, just to try to make ends meet," said Ramirez. "But you're working these two and three jobs in genuine terror and fear of being separated from your children for which you are working those jobs.”
Ramirez said there was already a shortage of mental health care providers in Florida who speak Spanish and can provide culturally competent care for these patients.
He only expects things to get worse.
“You know, for me personally, it would be debilitating to think, how do you get up and go to work every day and go out and do these things and think is today, the day? Could today be the day that I'm separated from my young children?”
Florida ranks 49th in the country for mental health spending according to Mental Health America.