In an effort to provide new services in the area of behavioral health, Gary Tester, executive director of Catholic Charities of Central Florida, has announced a new initiative to address Central Florida’s most pressing needs in this area.

“We know families and individuals are hurting because of a lack of resources in the area of behavioral health, especially in Brevard County. Our goal is to accompany these individuals so they can be empowered to restore their lives and their families,” said Tester. “Improving the behavioral health of an individual lifts up an entire community.”

Leading this new initiative is Catherine Galda, a licensed clinical social worker who started on November 1, 2016 as director of Behavioral Health Services. The program will launch first in Brevard County in the spring of 2017 and a timetable for expansion into other counties will be announced later.

Galda has a strong background in helping people impacted by trauma. In fact, for three years, she served in Newtown, Connecticut providing guidance and support to families and children who were impacted by the tragic Sandy Hook School shootings there in 2012.

Tester believes that Galda’s experience in trauma support aligns with the mission of Catholic Charities to extend God’s love and mercy to clients.

“The unique aspect of our behavioral health program is that we will take a trauma informed perspective. Many of our clients have a history of trauma. This approach allows us to be more understanding and provide them a safe space,” said Tester.

Galda will be educating staff and training them on the basics of understanding trauma and this training is expected to impact Catholic Charities at all levels.

“With Behavioral Health, we seek to be holistic, caring for a person’s mind, body and soul. We also provide resources and coordinated care. We also seek to remove the stigma that has made it difficult for people to seek help. We want to help people understand how mental health affects physical health. We also look beyond the immediate concern and find the root causes of a problem that are often the result of a traumatic episode,” said Galda.

Prior to her position with CCCF, Galda conducted two trainings in Florida following the Pulse tragedy in June. She led, “Coping with Tragedy and Grief – Ministering in the Wake of Crisis” on August 18, 2016 at Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Winter Park. She also led a similar training session in August in Tampa at a statewide Catholic Charities conference.

Galda will work with United Way of Brevard County and the Space Coast Health Foundation to determine which services are most critical. She will also meet with Brevard pastors and parish leaders to find out what their needs are and what will be most beneficial.

In years past, Catholic Charities offered counseling services. However, this new initiative is based on a new model that incorporates contract therapists and volunteers and also has a much broader focus on behavioral health. As always, the agency is committed to making their services accessible regardless of income.

Catherine Galda is available to speak at parishes on topics such as caregiving, grief, coping, depression, anxiety, trauma, stress, addictions, parent/child relations, marital relations and interpersonal relations. Contact info CGalda@cflcc.org.