New program provides support line for hurricane survivors

hurricane Ian support line
hurricane Ian support line(WJHG)
Published: Oct. 21, 2022 at 11:46 PM EDT
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - A newly released program called Hurricane Ian Support Line is helping survivors of the storm that hit southwest Florida. It pairs locals who went through hurricane Michael with survivors of hurricane Ian.

Even though it just launched this week, they already have over 25 phone calls and are expecting more.

Courtney Stanford is a mentor who survived hurricane Michael.

“When someone from south Florida reaches out makes that call to the peer line, we are there on the other end of the phone to provide our experience,” Stanford said.

“It’s not a mental health line it’s not a crisis lines it’s a true peer to peer line,” Stanford said.

One of her peers, an Ian survivor struggling on what to do now for kids’ education.

This is a situation Stanford went through four years ago when hurricane Michael hit the Florida panhandle.

“This gentleman is talking to me about I don’t know what to do about my child’s education, and I was like oh my gosh, but I made that decision, and my little girl is fine,” Stanford said.

The reassuring voice on the other end of the line gives Ian survivors someone who they can talk to, for guidance and support.

Lyn Masslieno is another peer volunteer who also lived through hurricane Michael.

“I have the lived experience of living through hurricane Michael,” Masslieno said. “I can remember back in some of the days that were hard and that were rough for me and my family as well. To able to reach out to them and to support them.”

Both volunteers and locals know how much pain a hurricane can bring. Between a third and a half of those who have been through a disaster have mental distress.

This line can help alleviate that and give survivors hope.

“The hope that they’re not alone others have gone through something similar and be able to offer them support and a little bit of guidance,” Stanford said.

The volunteers say talking Ian survivors through the aftermath of a traumatic experience brings up their own memories.

“You know you’re listening to the hurricane Ian survivors which of course if you’ve gone through a traumatic situation it brings up thoughts of what you’ve gone through,” Masslieno said.

Stanford says its therapeutic for them to talk to these survivors and share experiences and reassurance that brighter days are ahead.

Northwest Florida Health Network has more than 30 volunteers.

If you have experience, they are holding a training schedule next Tuesday. You can contact Lyn Masslieno at for more information.