Substance abuse and mental health concerns are serious issues and the Guidance Care Center is here to help

Folks at the Guidance Care Center know that sometimes people need a caring, helping hand.

Maureen Dunleavy, Regional Vice President with the Guidance Care Center, joined Good Morning Keys this morning on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM to talk about mental health.

A suicide prevention walk happened about two weeks ago to raise awareness about suicide prevention. It coincided with National Suicide Survivors day.

Dunleavy has worked with the Guidance Care Center for about 17 years.

She said, “The Guidance Care Center has been in this community for 50 years. It’ll be 50 years in 2023. We are the centralized receiving facility and community based agency that basically does everything mental health and substance abuse related.”

The center provides prevention, treatment and the Marathon facility has the only detox in the Keys for adults and has a crisis stabilization unit.

Dunleavy said, “We also manage the Heron, which is an assisted living facility that’s also in Marathon that is a home for those that are struggling with mental illness who need those extra supports to be able to live independently.”

Substance abuse, especially in terms of fentanyl, is in the news a lot.

Dunleavy said, “We definitely are seeing more fentanyl. We’re having more arrests. There have been more overdoses. Fentanyl is a very dangerous synthetic drug. People who may be struggling with addiction when we talk about pain pills…then can’t get a prescription for that and end up buying it from somebody off the street, fentanyl is a very powerful synthetic opioid that they’re using as a filler and it does not take very much of it to cause an overdose.”

The drug shuts down the respiratory system, so a person stops breathing and he or she doesn’t need to be exposed to very much of it. In fact, a person can even be exposed by getting it on the skin or breathing it in.

Dunleavy said, “One of the things that Guidance Care Center is doing is we’ve been partnering with the state of Florida to give out free NARCAN kits at all three of our sites – Key West, Marathon and Key Largo. Anybody can come in, stop by the front desk and just ask for a NARCAN kit. I know that there are some people who say we want people to stop using it. Of course we do, but what NARCAN can do is it gives live-saving minutes, so if you are in the presence of somebody who is overdosing and you give them NARCAN, which is a nasal spray, real easy to use, those are life-saving minutes in order to be able to get a larger dose of that reversal drug that will block it so that your body doesn’t shut down.”

Do not feel as though any judgment will be made should you request a NARCAN kit. Professionals throughout the Keys are just so grateful for the help in reducing overdose deaths.

Dunleavy said, “Guidance Care Center is a true community-based agency, which is why you see our name aligned with so many other people in this community.”

Fentanyl can be used not only as a filler, but a drug on its own, so some people will seek out fentanyl.

Dunleavy said, “There can be other drugs that are laced with that, it can be powder, it can be pill form. It’s very dangerous because you don’t know what you’re getting. You don’t have professionals that are making the drugs so that you don’t get a lethal dose.”

Officials in the Keys are working hard to keep it off the streets.

Dunleavy said, “I love following the Sheriff’s page because they are very transparent about what’s going on in our community. We know it’s a nationwide epidemic.”

Another trend that’s going around the country is if someone dies from a fentanyl overdose, the person who provided it can be charged with homicide.

Dunleavy said, “That is another trend that is a good thing because obviously it’s extremely serious and people are being held responsible for taking somebody else’s life.”

Sometimes mental health issues can be multiplied during the holidays.

Dunleavy said, “Mental health is managed. We all have mental health just like we have physical health and sometimes in our lives things may be more stressful than other times and certainly the holiday can be stressful for individuals and you’ve got to have coping skills.”

Sometimes people will turn to substances to cope and that can become problematic.

Dunleavy said, “If you know somebody or yourself that’s addicted to opioid, we have medications and treatment programs, counseling programs to be able to help people recover from those addictions. I think the really important point is we’re going to help you whether you can pay for it or not. Nobody is turned away for inability to pay. If somebody is struggling with substance use and needs help, they should absolutely come into the Guidance Care Center so that we can help them get off of those substances and get into recovery.”

Help is available 24/7 at 305-434-7660.