Editorial Board — Naples Daily News, USA TODAY NETWORK – Florida — 06/09/2018

While Florida ranks at the bottom among states in supporting mental health programs, there are reasons to feel better about what’s being done locally in Collier County.

During a County Commission meeting this week that focused on mental health and addiction services, Collier Sheriff Kevin Rambosk put this in perspective based on his interaction with law enforcement leaders across the state and nation. “It is important that our community understand that we are way, way ahead in trying to make a positive impact on mental health,” he said.

He cited collaboration of the court system, State Attorney and Public Defender offices, Sheriff ’s Office, David Lawrence Center that provides mental health and addiction services in Collier , county commissioners and nonprofits such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), among others. “There are few (in other locales) that I can count on one hand that have put something like this together,” he said.

Some examples:

  • Three specialized courts for those with a mental illness, drug abusers and veterans who have been arrested on nonviolent, minor charges so that they can rehabilitate rather than being incarcerated.
  • NAMI’s Sarah Ann Center, a 6,000-square-foot drop-in gathering place in Collier. It is open six days a week for those with a mental illness to spend quiet time, socialize, enjoy a meal and get wellness attention. “Treatment is necessary … but it is not sufficient for people with serious mental illnesses,” NAMI executive director Pam Baker said. “They need long-term, everyday recovery support.”
  • The Collier Sheriff’s Office provides crisis intervention training to first responders to de-escalate a potentially violent situation. About 95 percent of sheriff ’s personnel have been trained, with firefighters and Emergency Medical Services staff also getting the training now. Rambosk’s agency now has a mental health intervention team that is keeping track of 85 juveniles considered at risk, along with 95 adults, notably those from the treatment courts. Are there opportunities to improve? Certainly, Rambosk said.

That’s why we applaud Commission Chairman Andy Solis for spearheading the initiative to create a mental health strategic plan for Collier and a county advisory panel to see it through.

After all, as we noted in this space last week, Florida has fallen to last among states in per capita spending for mental health. “It’s how far down we are,” added David Lawrence chief executive Scott Burgess, who said tripling the current funding would get Florida to the middle range among states and a tenfold increase would be needed to get to the top.

Money certainly doesn’t solve everything. But for a community that wants to boast it’s the best, it will take an investment and a continued local commitment like the one that’s begun to get us on top and keep us there.