About a year ago, Charles “Chuck” Nechtem noticed the man was crying as he walked the beach of Longboat Key. Nechtem, who owns Charles Nechtem Associates Inc., an employee-assistance and counseling firm, which moved two years ago to Longboat Key from Newark, N.J., approached the man, who said that his wife of 55 years had died just weeks before. The man found himself at a crossroads, trying to decide whether to remain on Longboat Key or move to New York to be closer to his family.
“I wanted to give the fellow some help as a human being,” Nechtem said. “Then, I thought he might not be the only one going through these issues.”
Nechtem wants to be sure that Longboat residents and employees have access to the counseling and mental-health support they may need, so he is opening up his company’s services for a 90-day period to those who live and work on the island. Projected to begin Sept. 1, residents and employees can call a helpline and speak with one of 250 licensed counselors for free. The counselor can then provide referrals for face-to-face mental-health services if necessary.
The company’s counseling services are typically available only to its clients, who pay the firm to provide resources to their employees. Clients include national firms such as Barnes & Noble and Walgreens, various municipalities and local businesses such as the Longboat Key Club and Resort.
Nechtem said that with a statistically older population, Longboat Key residents may find themselves facing similar life challenges, including grief, illness and difficulties with children and grandchildren.
“Despite how beautiful it is here, people have issues,” Nechtem said. “Often when you have a spouse who dies, the surviving spouse dies quickly because they don’t have that same routine anymore. They lose their zest for life.”
Nechtem said that the free counseling services will be unique to Longboat Key.
“We’re the first ones in the country offering free counseling services,” he said. “Maybe even the world.”
Nechtem said he will release the number for the Key helpline once it has been established.
Contact Robin Hartill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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