Crisis Center of Tampa Bay reports a surge in calls after Hurricane Ian
The center responded to more than triple its yearly average number of 211 calls from Charlotte County in just one week.
Crisis Center of Tampa Bay staff have been busy helping people in need of support after Hurricane Ian. The center manages the 211 social services hotline and 988 suicide prevention lifeline for Hillsborough and Charlotte counties, and officials are reporting a surge in demand.
Charlotte County typically makes up a small portion of the 211 calls staff respond to, roughly 500 a year, estimated Clara Reynolds, president and CEO of the Crisis Center.
But between Sept. 26 and Oct. 2, the center received about 1,700 calls from Charlotte residents as Hurricane Ian devastated the community. Reynolds called it an “explosion.”
“Most folks are looking for obviously food, clothing, shelter — very basic needs,” she explained.
Only a handful of people in Charlotte have called 988 with mental health emergencies, said Reynolds. She suspects most people are still focused on navigating the storm's destruction.
Things are different in Hillsborough County, where Reynolds said 988 calls had dipped to 20 or 30 a day last week when residents were preparing for the storm to hit Tampa. By Friday, when things had largely settled in Hillsborough, Reynolds said staff took 106 suicide calls.
“So again it really kind of matches, when people are in the moment they're very focused on basic needs, making sure their families are taken care of, and it is post-storm that you really start to see those behavioral tsunami impacts from these big disasters,” Reynolds said.
The center is anticipating a rise in 988 calls from Charlotte County in the coming weeks. For now, Reynolds said staff are working to stay on top of the evolving array of resources available to support residents affected by the storm.
She encourages all in need to call for help.
To connect with social services in the community or get non-emergent mental health support, dial 211.
For help with a mental health crisis, dial 988.
Here are some ways residents can support members of the community affected by Hurricane Ian.
FEMA has a Hurricane Ian webpage with instructions on how to apply for assistance and other resources.