2020 brought many health and well being challenges to our community. The global health pandemic, national division and economic uncertainty took a significant emotional toll on us all.
For frontline workers, students, business owners, vulnerable populations, and especially those who lost loved ones or who were unable to visit ailing family members – the impacts were even greater.
Our country was already facing a suicide crisis and an opioid epidemic going into 2020. Today, the difficulties people experienced during the past year – such as bereavement, isolation, income loss and fear – triggered new mental health conditions or exacerbated existing ones. Many are now struggling with increased levels of substance use, insomnia, anxiety and depression.
As the lasting impacts of the coronavirus continue into 2021, even greater demand will be placed on mental health providers that have suffered from years of chronic underfunding, especially in the state of Florida, which ranks 50th out of 50 in per capita spending for mental health – all when our local population has been exploding and is expected to continue to grow.
As we collectively drift further into unchartered waters, the anxiety of when things will return to “normal” looms as an elusive harbor we seek to find. But there is comfort in knowing we are not alone and we will make it through this tough time, together.
As a society, we need to treat these health conditions the same as any other – with care, compassion and full access to evidence-based treatment. When we do that, everyone wins, including individuals, families and communities.
I believe there is no health without mental health. Through eﬀective treatment and collaboration, recovery is the expectation, not the exception and a pathway to ensure all not only survive, but thrive.
As I look to the future, I’m hopeful because of our community’s resilience that I witnessed last year. Many non-profits, generous donors and our county shared strength, vision, talents, and resources to overcome obstacles and plan for the future.
With donor support, DLC quickly invested in ramping up telemedicine; now more than 100 clinicians are providing care virtually. Together, we ensured little to no disruption in services and expanded accessibility through innovation and adaption.
DLC and other key stakeholders also spent the year mobilizing Collier County’s first mental health and addiction services strategic plan. The plan addresses the increased demand for crisis treatment, the need for affordable housing, supportive services, and enhancements in the justice system response to these challenges.
Creating opportunities to build community awareness and advocacy is also part of the plan. That great work will continue in 2021 and undoubtedly improve the lives of those struggling with behavioral health challenges.
As we begin a new year, everyone can be part of the solution by helping raise awareness, decrease stigma, and encourage individuals to get help. As we continue to navigate our new normal and the psychological and physical impacts of this pandemic rage on, it is important for everyone to know there should be no shame or guilt associated with reaching out for support.
You can also help DLC mobilize its vital mission by taking a virtual tour to learn more and/or attending our Sound Minds ™ luncheon featuring keynote speaker, actor and mental health advocate, Sean Austin, on March 5, 2021.
I am confident that with friends in the community continuing to support DLC and giving from their hearts, we can and we will meet the needs together. We will boldly go forward to mend the minds of those in need by advancing healing, health and hope.
Scott Burgess is the President and CEO of David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health (DLC), Collier County’s only comprehensive, not-for-profit behavioral health provider serving children, adults and families. DLC’s innovative treatment includes inpatient, outpatient, residential, and community-based services – a comprehensive system of care funded by community and government support.
Visit DavidLawrenceCenter.org or call 239-455-8500 for more information.