Building is in plans to expand Collier’s mental health care
Liz Freeman, Naples Daily News — USA TODAY NETWORK – FLORIDA / 06/06/2018
For Collier County to get a handle on its mental health and addiction crisis, a top priority would involve building a centralized receiving facility for stream-lined access to treatment.
A draft plan involves a 55,000-square-foot building on the campus of the David Lawrence Center on Golden Gate Parkway in East Naples, Scott Burgess, chief executive officer of the non-profit mental health center, said at a workshop Tuesday. The estimated cost to build it is $26.5 million, he said, and the annual operating costs would be up to $2 million. The center would serve as a single-point access to services, including for people coming voluntarily and involuntarily for rapid assessment, Burgess said.
The proposed complex is the first of seven priorities detailed in Tuesday’s mental health and substance abuse workshop with Collier County commissioners and key stakeholders. The session included officials from the Sheriff ’s Office, NCH Healthcare System and treatment courts. The nearly four-hour workshop was organized by Commission Chairman Andy Solis, who organized the first mental health workshop last year.
The sales tax hike proposal that will go before voters on the November ballot could bring in the money to pay for construction of the building but not operating expenses, said Dudley Goodlette, past chairman of the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce. Voters are being asked to raise the sales tax by 1 percentage point — from 6 to 7 percent — for seven years or once $490 million is raised, whichever comes first, for a variety of projects.
In addition, Solis plans to bring a resolution to the board to create an ad hoc committee to help frame a plan to get a better handle on the burgeoning crisis of people with mental illness, substance abuse addiction — or both— who are jamming the jail, emergency rooms and the David Lawrence Center. The private nonprofit David Lawrence Center has 30 beds for people who have been committed involuntarily through the Baker Act for an evaluation. Eight of the beds are for children.
Florida has dropped from 49th among the states to dead bottom in terms of per capita spending on mental health and substance abuse, Solis said. Shortfalls with capacity to get people out of jail or a hospital and into treatment, and the lack of supportive housing after treatment, were the underlying concerns at the workshop.
Based on a state Department of Children and Families formula, there should be 30 adult beds for Baker Act patients for every 100,000 residents, which means Collier should have 100 or more Baker Act beds, Burgess said. Forty percent of residents, or roughly 700 adults and children, who need a Baker Act commitment are being sent out of the county, he said. In 2001 the David Lawrence Center saw 250 Baker Act referrals, he said, and it’s projected to be 1,570 in 2018.
Sgt. Leslie Weidenhammer — who works with the drug, mental health and veterans’ treatment courts —exhibited a photo of patrol cars lined up outside the David Lawrence Center to get people in the crisis unit, which takes deputies away from patrol duties. “We’ve seen our new norm in Collier County, and we’ve got to keep up,” Weidenhammer said, adding that the Sheriff ’s Office last year got 18,000calls about people in crisis.
The Sheriff ’s Office has developed a mental health intervention team and has been tracking 95 adults and 85 juveniles since January, she said. A separate program is crisis intervention training (CIT), where 95 percent of law enforcement officers have been trained to recognize when someone is having a crisis, she said. Firefighters and paramedics are also getting the training. “We are the gold standard in the state of Florida with our training,” Weidenhammer said.
About 28 percent of inmates, or 838 individuals, in the Collier County Jail have a mental health illness, said Katrina Bouza, inmate service bureau director. Inmates with mental health issues stay in the jail five times longer than other inmates. A one-day jail stay costs the county $136.
Judge Janeice Martin, who oversees the three treatment courts, said the county’s funding of three people — one each for the treatment court, the State Attorney’s Office and the Public Defender’s Office — was crucial help this past year. The county funding was $186,000. “They could not have made a more profound impact on what we do,” Martin said. From last year’s workshop, the treatment courts were tasked with two goals: increasing participation and decreasing wait times, she said. She reported an 18 percent increase in drug court participants and said the wait time is down 27 percent. The drug court graduation rate is 60 percent, and the graduation rate is 69 percent for mental health court.
An outgrowth of last year’s workshop was the development of a rapid response team to get the profoundly mentally ill out of jail, Martin said. “For the benefit of the Sheriff ’s Office, that is good public safety,” she said.
Sheriff Kevin Rambosk said developing a plan is a good move, and he pointed out few communities are coming together. “We are way, way ahead of everyone to make a positive impact on mental health,” Rambosk said.
The second priority is creating supportive housing for people with mental illness, who often wind up in the woods and re-arrested because they are homeless, said Pam Baker, chief executive of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Collier. “It is vital for people with mental illness to have a safe place to live,” she said.
The remaining priorities involve having a behavioral health data collaborative, increasing use of evidence-based practices, increasing use of treatment courts, having transportation for involuntarily committed Baker Acted individuals, and maintaining a grant from the state for the criminal justice, mental health and substance abuse council.