Here at NAMI of Collier County, the people that we help (or have helped!) are truly an inspiration to all of us. Read on, below, for a glimpse of our many success stories:


FIRST Program success stories:

The Collier County FIRST program provides intensive community re-entry assistance to inmates that life with serious mental illnesses who may also have co-occurring substance disorders. The program provides select inmates with services designed to facilitate their mental and behavioral health recovery. Referrals can come from family members, legal services, or community providers. Enrolled individuals have the opportunity to participate in mental health services, intensive case management, supported housing, and supported employment in order to achieve rehabilitation and reintegration in the community.

Jorge Soler

Jorge Soler became a participant in the FIRST Program in August of 2013. The FIRST team is a voluntary program which aims to help people who struggle with mental health and substance abuse issues to receive the services they need in order to change behaviors and thoughts that have led them to be involved with the criminal justice system. Mr. Soler had voluntarily worked with our team after recognizing that he had never addressed issues since childhood. Before then, Jorge had never taken advantage of a program that could assist him with maintaining a sober, manageable life. Mr. Soler has complied with all of the program’s requirements and recommendations successfully.  He is actively participating in everything that aids in his wellness and recovery and we will continue to support his recovery.

Jorge first visited the Sarah Ann Center as a recommendation from the team. At first, Jorge was unsure if the Sarah Ann Center would benefit him.  He began attending the support group each week and soon used his story and all that he had learned to talk to others.  He also began making new friends, and got to know the staff and then shortly after, became a volunteer.  Since then, Jorge has become an amazing asset to our organization. In fact, Jorge was recently hired as a part-time maintenance employee for NAMI!  If you get the opportunity to visit our office you will find Jorge involved in some kind of project for somebody!  The Team is very proud of Jorge and his successful completion of our program!


Jordan Moreno

Jordan Moreno began his participation in the FIRST Program in September of 2013.  When Jordan initially began with the FIRST team, he struggled to comply with the program recommendations and treatment. He also had very little trust or hope in others.  After a few failed attempts to maintain recovery, he finally arrived to the realization that he could no longer manage recovery on his own, and in turn reached out and accepted help.

Once Jordan made the commitment to focus on recovery, others began to recognize the change in his overall attitude towards others and his willingness and openness to gain insight into his own thoughts and behaviors.  Not only did he comply with the team’s recommendations, but sought out other available programs and resources in the community to enhance his journey to recovery.  He has been an inspiration to those around him and serves as a reminder to those of us in the helping professions to continue to have hope.  Jordan has now achieved over a year of sobriety! We are so proud of Jordan’s completion of our program and his commitment to recovery!


Jessie Brendle

Jessie Brendle started with FIRST in January of 2014. When Jessie began with the program, she was very willing to begin her journey into recovery, but lacked appropriate direction and support. She complied with treatment recommendations and began to address childhood issues that played a role in her substance abuse struggle.  She also came to the Sarah Ann Center and began attending a support group, where she started to understand her diagnosis and even make friends.  Jessie reports that having access to treatment, medications, therapy, and a team to support her in her recovery has made a difference in her life.  She has been able to reconnect with her family members and regain trust in others again. Jesse is employed and has hope in her future goals of going back to school or re-training for a career that is a good fit for her. The team is very proud of her successful completion of the program!


Tyrone Myers

Tyrone Myers has been a participant of FIRST since September of 2012. Tyrone has had a long history of trauma, incarcerations and substance abuse. Because of his trauma, Tyrone often heard voices that impacted him negatively.  He began attending the ‘Hearing Voices’ support group here at NAMI, where he learned positive coping skills to help him deal with the negative voices that often led him down a destructive path.

He also began learning coping skills such as learning to utilize mindful meditation from the FIRST staff, maintaining his medications, and participating in therapy. Although Tyrone survived witnessing the homicide of his mother as a young child, and later his brother, he never stopped trying to overcome his substance abuse. Tyrone made the decision to enter the Justin’s Place recovery program and successfully graduated a year later. Tyrone also continued to work with the FIRST team to assist him in his recovery. Today, Tyrone is free from substances and is successfully employed in the kitchen at St. Mathew’s House. He lives independently and often uses his story to help others in their journey to recovery. Tyrone inspires others with his big smile and positive attitude.  Tyrone recently successfully completed the FIRST Program. He attributes his success to his spiritual relationship with God and to those who never gave up on his hope for recovery. The FIRST team is so proud of Tyrone and his willingness to overcome any obstacles that stand in his way.


Cindy Bishop, SDC (Past) Participant
Seven Years to a Life

Seven years ago I became a participant in the Florida Self-Directed Care (SDC) Program which is administered by NAMI Collier.  I started out not knowing what I really wanted.  My life coach at the time, Gordon Magill, was a life saver for me.  Over and over he went through the procedures and paperwork.  Oh how I hated the paperwork!  Due to my depression, and the bad shape I was in, it took me about 2 years to calm down enough to quit crying when we did the dreaded paperwork.  He also comforted me by talking to me about God and life, because due to past issues, I had so many questions.  Between him, my church and certain friends, I came to understand pretty much what God, and real life was all about, which made a big difference in my life. We also shared the art of writing poetry. With some tweaking, he helped me set my goals.  I went from want-to-be web designer to computer whiz, and so much more.  At one point I even took some online courses.

Finally, with his help, and my new life coach, Susan Martin, I decided to make jewelry.  That process took a long time.  I bought books and storage drawers, eventually beads, and so on.  I made cheap jewelry, but couldn’t sell it so I became discouraged.  Susan urged me to keep trying, so with the SDC money I started buying better quality stones, and such.  I decided to try selling my new jewelry, and eventually I did.  I now have some in a downtown shop; I sell it to friends, and other venues such as the annual Collier County NAMI Walk.  This has been a big boost to my ego.

About 4 years or so ago I became a member of the SDC Advisory Council.  Almost immediately I was secretary, which I still am.  I have totally enjoyed working with the people involved, and having this job has given me some importance in my life.  Everyone has helped me tremendously.  Even though I am no longer a participant, I am enjoying being on the council as a community member.  I especially have enjoyed working with Susan, who has helped me tremendously, encouraged me, and has kept me on track.

When I first participated in SDC, I used my walker and went to church and a couple social activities, but I was mostly isolated at home. As part of my SDC Recovery Plan, I began working with Vocational Rehabilitation and started thinking about working again.  But I didn’t have much endurance and could not tolerate being out in the community more than a couple hours a week volunteering. I eventually joined the Hope Clubhouse in December of 2013. I built up my endurance and confidence and I now volunteer there helping others in their recovery from mental illnesses.  I enjoy being the lead receptionist for the Clubhouse 3 days a week for 7 hours each day. I have made a lot of friends there. I am currently doing administrative assistant work in planning for the upcoming Mental Health Symposium at Broadway Palm Dinner Theater.

Some of the history of my life, which is how I obtained my depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is years of abuse, assaults, and other traumatic events.  I blocked my past until I was 44, and then everything came back.  That is when I developed my illnesses.  Since then I have been hospitalized 8 times, had many different psychiatrists, therapists, and medication changes.  In many ways SDC has been a life saver, because now, with the support of my doctors, SDC and Hope Clubhouse I have a pretty normal life, with my goal of selling my jewelry in a shop, and all is in order.

One last thing, after seven years, up to the last quarter, I still couldn’t get the paperwork right!











Heather Hawk, CLEAR Access Line Coordinator
There is no question that there has been a lack of providers for children with behavioral health needs in Lee county. Parents have limited options on where to take their children, for those with developmental disorders, the options were even more limited. Recently doctors have left the community behavioral health center which is increasing wait time to be seen.This impacted one family that called us this morning in desperation. She had to cancel her son’s last appointment and needed to reschedule. The soonest available appointment was mid December with a new doctor at the community behavioral health center. Her son was running low on medications with no refills. She was tying to be seen as a walk-in, but did not know if her son would be seen. That is when she called us.We guided her to find out if the other office had any openings, if she could could be added to a cancellation list to get a sooner appointment or just refills called in as 2 months is a long time to go without medication. This is when the trained peer specialist asked what doctor the child saw and got to work. The peer specialist was able to find out that the doctor was now with the children’s hospital. The peer specialist called over and checked to make sure they were accepting the child’s Medicaid and then had the parent call. They were able to see the child a few hours later the same day. The child is now scheduled to see his regular doctor for ongoing medication management.A phone call to CLEAR helped resolve this family’s crisis and helped the community. How you may wonder? The peer specialist then followed up with the office at the children’s hospital. She inquired to see who they saw and what services they provide. She found out that they are accepting all Medicaid plans and most private insurances and is able to share this information with other families and community members to help families and children receive the care they need.

Nydia Adames-Petty, Adriana Gyorkos, Donna Charbonneau, Rebecca Kissell – HUGS Team
The families shown in picture, below, met at the 2014 NAMI walk. Although all had started HUGS, that day was the beginning of three (self reported) worried and isolated families’ journeys towards recovery. Now they feel informed, participate in our support group, additional psych educational sessions, encourage one another, and refer others to HUGS. The kids are socializing, creating friendships, and are often for the first time finding some acceptance from peers. A huge success is that what started as individual participants in HUGS, morphed into a self-directed support system.

The next picture captures a child that just blossomed and really responded to the Equestrian Challenge. There was pure joy when the group granted a scholarship petition and the parent and child experienced such a positive therapeutic activity. The child is now further connected to school level supports and is working closely with a navigator to link to other services as needed.


This final picture is of a family in Golden Gate that was the grateful recipient of a car donation. Since this picture has been taken, the mother has attended our Spanish-speaking support group, her daughters have met in George Drobinski’s teen group, and have also recently started counseling at the David Lawrence Center. This is a critical time for interventions, and although challenging, they all continue to move in a positive direction. The mother is further supported by bilingual Fam. Support Liaison.