Accessing Low-Cost Mental Health Services During COVID-19

Author: Katherine Ciarlante, PhD Student in Industrial-Organizational Psychology.

COVID-19 has changed our lives in many ways and the economic and social pressures associated with the pandemic have negatively impacted the mental health of many. As a result, many may be seeking mental health services, for themselves or their family, for the first time. This can be challenging even for individuals with past experience using counseling or other mental health services because of the major disruptions to mental health services worldwide. These disruptions make it difficult to identify and access affordable telehealth and online counseling. Additionally, employees who have been laid off or furloughed may no longer have access to health insurance or other previously available health care options.

Because of these challenges, the Targeted Research Training (TRT) program has identified free and low-cost mental health services in the Central Florida region. These resources are intended to be a starting point for those in need of mental health or telehealth/online counseling services. Many of these organizations can also provide assistance with accessing a broader range of resources including employment assistance, health programs, and family support services.

Mental Health Association of Central Florida (MHACF):

The Mental Health Association of Central Florida’s Mental Health Connections program is designed to help individuals living and working in Central Florida connect with mental health resources, including telehealth and online counseling providers. Through the MHACF website and phone hotline, individuals can request information on mental health resources for themselves, family, and friends. This includes information on immediate resources available for mental health in a crisis situation. The Mental Health Connection’s resources are also available in Spanish.

United Way 2-1-1 Hotline (Heart of Florida United Way):

The United Way’s 2-1-1 hotline is designed to assist people nationwide in finding local support and community services during times of crisis. The United Way 211 Community Resource Directory can also be used to search for available resources, including COVID-19 specific resources, through guided search terms. These resources include those associated with mental health and suicide prevention, food/housing assistance, family support services, and health and medical care. Multi-lingual specialists are available to provide assistance.

Aspire Health Partners:

Aspire Health Partners is focused on providing comprehensive and cost-effective behavioral health care services, related to drug and substance abuse, mental health, and health and wellness. They connect individuals in Central Florida counties to a range of services including assessment/screening, counseling, and prevention/education. Aspire has also compiled a COVID-19 Mental Health Resources Hub to answer COVID-19 related questions and provide recommendations for coping with associated stress and anxiety. In response to COVID-19, behavioral health clinicians are available via a 24-hour crisis support hotline.


UCF RESTORES is a treatment clinic, affiliated with the University of Central Florida, that provides clinical services to veterans, active duty military, first responders, trauma survivors, and other community members experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety-related disorders. Due to the immense demands COVID-19 has placed on many fields, UCF RESTORES is offering no cost, single sessions consultations for essential workers in Florida (e.g., health care workers, first responders, journalists, teachers). These one-hour sessions with a mental healthcare provider are used to discuss acute and on-going sources of stress and to develop a personalized plan for managing stress. For more information, contact the UCF RESTORES consultation line.

Many thanks to Dr. Deborah Beidel, UCF Professor and Executive Director of UCF RESTORES, for inspiring this blog post and helping to compile these resources. Dr. Beidel recently presented a talk on strategies for supporting mental health, as part of the TRT program’s Fall 2020 webinar series on coping with isolation in the hospitality industry. This series is presented in collaboration with the Rosen College of Hospitality Management. Information about past and future webinars can be found here.

For more questions about the Sunshine Education and Research Center and the Targeted Research Training Program, please contact Dr. Mindy Shoss at