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Parkland community opens center to help students' mental health needs after apparent suicides

Eagles' Haven opened Monday following the latest deaths and claims that students' mental health needs weren't met following school shooting.
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A new community center that offers free therapeutic services has opened to serve the students and families of Parkland, Florida, in the wake of two apparent suicides.

Eagles' Haven opened Monday, more than a year after a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School killed 17 people, and will offer a range of "wellness experiences" for those in need in the community.

"There are a great deal of trauma services that have been made available through a variety of agencies as well as the School District. While so much is available, people have had a hard time understanding where to go or what is right for them," Cindy Arenberg Seltzer, president and CEO of the Children's Services Council of Broward County, one of the organizations helping to develop Eagles' Haven, said in an email to NBC News.

A press release for Eagles' Haven says the service is "not a therapy center. It is a place for all of us to come together to rediscover wellness and restore hope."

It was not immediately clear how long Eagles' Haven has been in development, but the Children's Services Council has partnered with the Broward Behavioral Health Coalition to provide free trauma counseling to the Parkland community since October 2018.

The opening of Eagles' Haven comes shortly after the news of the apparent suicides.

Broward County Public Schools did not immediately provide NBC News with a comment on its mental health initiatives but provided information about the services that were provided to students in the days, weeks, and months after the shooting.

A memo from the school district, first reported by BuzzFeed News, outlined what "recovery and wellness efforts" the county put forward to help students cope.

The school district said it immediately opened five locations for the Stoneman Douglas community for free mental health support, in addition to consulting with other school shooting survivors and the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement.

Among other additions, the school district said it added more than 25 mental health clinicians within the Stoneman Douglas zone, added two guidance counselors to the Stoneman Douglas staff, and installed two wellness centers on the campus at the start of the 2018-19 school year.

The district also held three suicide prevention trainings for staff in July and one night for parents in November. Several "Youth Mental Health First Aid" trainings, which includes information on suicide prevention, have been held in Stoneman Douglas' zone sine the beginning of the year, according to the district.

"During the spring break, I encourage you to take time to speak with your children every day. Dinners are a great time for family conversation," Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said in a statement on Monday. "We need to remove the stigma from talking about suicide."

Last year, voters approved a referendum that would provide the Broward County schools with $93 million for four years, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported. The newspaper reported that $7.4 million would be allocated for additional counselors, social workers and behavior specialists for the following school year.

The Sun Sentinel reported that Broward County has a ratio of one school psychologist per 1,630 students, and that the recommended ratio is one to 500 students.

Although Broward County appeared to provide many mental health resources, students still claimed that they felt rushed in returning to normal and pressure to sweep their emotions aside.

"When it comes down to it our trauma was quickly swept aside because they wanted everything to return to normal, we literally went back a week after it happened," former Stoneman Douglas student Lex Michael wrote on Twitter.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741 or visit for additional resources.