Kathryn Leib-Hunter, CEO of NAMI of Collier County, dies
By: Alexi Cardona
Originally posted via Naples Daily News, here

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Kathryn Leib-Hunter was a true advocate.

As the chief executive officer of NAMI of Collier County, she knew how to get things done and fought to change the stigma associated with mental illness.

She died on Wednesday evening at 54.

A release the organization sent out Thursday afternoon states she had been suffering severe health issues.

Leib-Hunter became known in the community as a champion for those affected by mental illness. It was a cause close to her heart. One of her brothers struggled with mental illness and substance abuse and died as a result.

More than 20 years ago, she helped found a Guardian ad Litem program, which trains adults to represent the interests of children in court.

In 1993, she went on to become executive director of the Alliance for the Mentally Ill of Collier County, now NAMI, an affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

“She built the organization to what it is today,” said Karen Kalinowski, NAMI’s director of administration. “She was a force, but she was also very human. She touched you instantly. She had tremendous love and showed it for the entire community.”

Under her leadership, the organization grew to serve more than 12,000 people. Leib-Hunter trained more than 700 law enforcement officers and community leaders in crisis intervention.

“Kathryn was a passionate advocate and community leader,” said Scott Burgess, CEO of the David Lawrence Center. “Her impact has been great in Collier County and I have been honored to serve in partnership with her towards effectively addressing the mental health needs of our community. Her efforts helping bring mental health training to area law enforcement professionals through a rigorous training program we worked on together, called CIT, is just one example of how her legacy will live on and on, to the benefit of our community.”

She also partnered with the Naples Children & Education Foundation to start HUGS, Health Under Guided Systems, which screens 2,000 children a year for mental health problems and helps families find services.

Leib-Hunter brought her faith and family values to her work.

“You never had a conversation with her without her twin boys being part of that conversation,” Kalinowski said. “She was a family person first and foremost. Kathryn also had tremendous faith and brought it into everything she did. That really resonated with the people she helped.”

In 2015, Leib-Hunter was honored as one of the Naples Daily News’ 25 over 50. She was asked what she was most proud of accomplishing, and she said, ” I am most proud of being able to provide hope and help to people in need. I have been blessed to realize my mission in life, and constantly challenge myself to work harder in helping others.”

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Originally posted via Naples Daily News, here