HOPE Building Stronger Minds Together COLLIER

by Scott Burgess,
David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health,
President and CEO

Nora’s preschool aged son David was throwing multiple tantrums everyday. It seemed like everything made him angry. “It was very upsetting,” says Nora. “I felt like I wasn’t a good mother.” She brought him to David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health (DLC), where he was diagnosed with adjustment disorder, typified by an overreaction to change or stress. Nora wasn’t a bad mom; she just needed help working with her son.

After a year in DLC’s children’s outpatient program, David was “a different child,” says Nora, noting that David rarely loses his temper anymore.

That is just one of thousands of stories I could share about how DLC has helped children, adults, and families over its 55 years of existence.

But as the population of Collier County has exploded, so have its mental health needs. The Collier community is facing the worst mental health and substance use crisis in local history, and DLC can barely keep up with the demand for services.

The crisis has led to severe shortages impacting DLC and the area, including:

  • Space to meet the rising needs for outpatient care
  • Inpatient crisis beds
  • Addiction treatment beds
  • Supported housing and more.

Worse, both DLC and the community at large are facing a personnel crisis. There simply aren’t enough highly trained and experienced staff in Collier. The individual-clinician ratio in Collier County is 930:1, compared to the 550:1 average in Florida and 300:1 in the U.S.

I’m not exaggerating when I say this is a crisis of epic proportions. It’s so acute that DLC is sometimes forced to turn people away because of the lack of available space to provide care.

But all that is beginning to change, thanks to DLC’s new initiative, “Hope for Collier: Building Stronger Minds Together.”

The initiative, a collaboration between DLC, Collier County, entrepreneurs, and private philanthropists, will result in the following investments and renovations:

  • The 60,000 square foot Collier County Behavioral Health Center (CCBHC), which will dramatically increase DLC’s capacity, is scheduled to break ground later this year. The CCBHC will provide emergency screening and triage around the clock and greatly expand the number of crisis beds for adults experiencing a serious mental health crisis.
  • The 13,500 quare foot Access and Integrated Care Center to increase the capacity for addressing behavioral health urgent care, medical/primary care, drug treatment, trauma focused therapy for veterans, and much more.
  • The 25,000 square foot Van Domelen Children’s Center for Excellence, which will double the capacity from 15 beds to 30. This project, funded in part by a $10 million gift from the Bill and Julia Van Domelen Foundation, will create a customized space for children in an environment that will allow for healing and will impact generations for years to come. It will also double the number of children currently being served. To say DLC is grateful for this exceptional support is an understatement.
  • A second recovery residence to supplement DLC’s current Hope Home for men who need transitional support in their recovery from substance use disorder.

Hope for Collier also features other renovations at DLC’s main campus on Bathey Lane: a new best-in-class program for recruiting and retaining highly trained and experienced staff, and an even deeper commitment to increase access to care for neighbors.

With one in four children and adults locally experiencing mental health, emotional, or psychological challenges, and one in seven suffering from substance use issues, it is abundantly clear that the time is now for DLC to advance and expand its leadership as the primary provider for all of the community’s mental health needs.

There is no health without positive mental health, and to truly have Hope for Collier, it’s critical to work together to build strong and resilient minds, which means a greater investment in behavioral healthcare.

In all, Hope for Collier is a multi-pronged, complex effort to address the local mental health and addiction crisis, and DLC is thankful to have some funding already secured, highlighted by the Van Domelen Foundation gift.

At the beginning of this article, I introduced Nora and her son David and shared how they were helped. With Hope for Collier, DLC will be able to help tens of thousands more people like them in the years ahead.

To learn more about the initiative, about DLC overall, and ways you can help, please visit DLCenters.org

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