Collier County Health News Newsletter Top Story

An in-depth look how Collier County is addressing mental heath

An in-depth look how Collier County is addressing mental heath

The legal justice system is making an attempt to stem the tide of mentally ailing individuals cycling in and out of jail.

Tom Ruggiero was a type of instances, as he used crime to assist deal with the ache of dropping his wife amongst different relations.

“I was just like I can’t do this, I can’t do this anymore. I can’t fathom another birthday, holiday, anniversary, anything without my wife,” stated Ruggiero.

His wife died in a automotive accident after celebrating remission from most cancers. She was one among many relations’s he has lost.

“I was a lost soul. I didn’t know how to do anything, I didn’t know how to share, didn’t know how to change.” -Tom Ruggiero

A day after Christmas, he took the last of his spouse’s most cancers treatment and went to sleep hoping to not get up.

“I was a lost soul. I didn’t know how to do anything, I didn’t know how to share, didn’t know how to change. I wanted it but I just didn’t know how to do it,” stated Ruggiero.

He ended up on the David Lawrence Middle underneath Florida’s Baker Act. After being held for a psychiatric evaluation, he was put in jail for violating probation.

“The first month I didn’t know what was going on. Nobody could give me any information, my lawyers, nobody. But they were hatching a plan, the prosecutor the judge and my lawyer to get me into mental health court.”

Decide Janeice Martin runs Collier County’s Mental Health courtroom, which moves defendants with mental health struggles from jail into remedy.

“It is highly individualized. It is essentially compelled treatment but they opt into it, which is how we are able to then compel the treatment. They agree to be bound to do whatever the doctor directs them to do and we simply enforce the compliance with their treatment plan,” stated Decide Martin.

Regardless of some inevitable setbacks, this system has a 69 % success fee, with only 21 % rearrested inside 3 years. Even for many who did not end this system, recidivism is 40 %.

Ruggiero graduated from mental well being courtroom in lower than a yr.

Trauma Therapy gets to the basis of deep-seated ache and eventually heals it, and because of it, at the moment Ruggiero has a job and a faithful household.


As mass shootings have gotten extra rampant, faculties and communities are targeted on mental well being points more than ever earlier than.

Zack King, left, comforts good friend Mychal Bradley in entrance of 17 angels representing those that died in Wednesday’s capturing at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Excessive Faculty Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018, in Parkland, Fla. (Taimy Alvarez/South Florida Sun-Sentinel by way of AP)

With the varsity capturing in Parkland and others, many indicators have been missed that would have probably prevented the loss of life that occurred. Collier County Sheriff’s Office is taking the required steps to ensure nothing like that happens once more.

WINK News took a look inside a housing unit on the Collier County jail, the place Sheriff Kevin Rambosk says too many occasions mental well being sufferers end up inside a cell as an alternative of in remedy where they will get the help they want.

“If we can refer people away from the jail to receive mental health help prior to a criminal act particularly, it will save money, it will save time, and it will make the community safer,” stated Rambosk.

“At least half the population of the jail or more at any given time is being referred for mental health help.” – Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk

The sheriff’s office spent more than 2.5-million dollars final fiscal yr in the direction of mentally sick inmates for medical costs and supervision. That quantity excludes any meals or additional staffing that was typically needed.

“At least half the population of the jail or more at any given time is being referred for mental health help,” Rambosk stated.

The sheriff’s workplace says that may be even larger if it weren’t for the crisis intervention training, which is an intensive 40-hour course that teaches Collier deputies how to recognize mental illness, and de-escalate confrontations that may lead to arrests.

Sheriff Rambosk also says the group can participate in notifying individuals with an indication of mental sickness.

“Communities need to be proactive. When you see someone in need of help you need to make contact with those that can help them and that’s exactly why we started the programs we’ve started here,” stated Rambosk.

The newest initiative led by Lieutenant Leslie Weidenhammer is CCSO’s Mental Well being Bureau.

“The sheriff has taken the initiative for us to concentrate on the individual throughout the process,” says Weidenhammer.

“Here in the jail, letting staff know when they come in what information they have so they’re providing that to them at the jail.”

From the moment deputies interact with them on the street, to their time in jail and then released, wellness checks are performed throughout.

“We have a mental health intervention team a licensed clinical social worker that we have contracted with David Lawrence Center and we will take her and simply knock on the door and say hi how are you doing? We’re just here checking on you and making sure things are going well for you. Is there anything we can help you with?” stated Weidenhammer.

A few of them are diverted to mental health courtroom for remedy slightly than jail time. This is a program that Tom Ruggerio credit for serving to him turn his life around, after trying suicide, when his spouse passed.

“The combination of that medicine, this program, and the therapy was the exact recipe that I needed. Yup, so it’s just amazing,” stated Ruggerio.

For Sheriff Rambosk, preventing the tragedy before it happens is what’s most necessary.

“Without that, we will certainly miss individuals that will cause harm to themselves, others, and communities, and some tragically.”

He additionally says it is the every day interactions with the varsity system, David Lawrence Middle, and Nationwide Alliance of Mental Well being in Collier, all working collectively, that has been essential in tackling these complicated issues.


It is a startling statistic: Suicide has grow to be the second-leading explanation for demise for youngsters, teens, and younger adults. Meanwhile, the variety of youngsters being hospitalized underneath Florida’s Baker Act continues to rise.

The regulation permits docs, judges, and regulation enforcement to commit a person for psychiatric evaluation if they are thought-about a menace to themselves or others.

We received a first-hand look on the effects the overflow is having at Collier County’s David Lawrence Middle— and what assist is on the best way.

“This is clearly a major, national, and local epidemic,” stated Scott Burgess, CEO of David Lawrence Middle.

“We’re regularly running situations on a day-to-day basis where we’ve got 12, 13, 14 children that are needing to be on our unit.” -Scott Burgess, CEO of David Lawrence Middle.

As Collier County’s only Baker Act-receiving facility, young individuals are introduced there whether or not there are beds out there. Out of 30 beds, only eight are for youngsters.

“We’re regularly running situations on a day-to-day basis where we’ve got 12, 13, 14 children that are needing to be on our unit,” stated Burgess. The middle has to usher in cots to make room for the overflow.

Lindsey and Lindy Thomas have a private understanding of what the families go through when their youngsters are mentally sick.

Their son, who is now in his 40s, battled the illness at a young age and was out and in of the hospital a number of occasions.

“Many times we stayed in the hospital or facility for weeks, months going through different trials and different medications,” stated Lindsey Thomas.

Docs have been lastly capable of finding a medicine that labored for his or her son, but the couple says it was an extended street to get to that point.

“It’s literally heartbreaking as you watch them struggle and try to maintain their life and what’s going on and deal with family,” stated Lindy Thomas.

Unfortunately, the variety of youngsters needing help continues to develop, and the David Lawrence Middle reviews a 32.5 % improve in psychiatric admissions of youngsters and teenagers in 2018, in comparison with the earlier yr.

Psychiatrist Edwin Gomez sees the problems on the facility first hand, as he is the one who evaluates the youngsters when they’re Baker-Acted. Although it is difficult to pinpoint a selected purpose for the rise, he says it might partly be because of larger consciousness general, and especially social media.

As extra celebrities brazenly share struggles with nervousness and melancholy, it appears more younger individuals are making a public name for assist. “Children are expressing themselves more with social media, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat…we get a lot of those admissions with patients saying they’re depressed and are thinking of ending it all,” Dr. Gomez stated. “Luckily they have friends and family that care for them, and as soon as they see the message they call police.”

Once they arrive on the Middle although, Dr. Gomez says the limited area presents a wrestle.

The newest annual report also exhibits up to 40 % of Baker-Acted patients at David Lawrence Middle needed to be moved to other counties.

“A lot of time when we’re packed to the maximum, we have to consult with other facilities to see if they will take our patients,” stated Dr. Gomez. “The challenge we get into, parents get upset and I can’t blame them for getting upset for having their child be transferred from here to let’s say Punta Gorda or even Tampa because there’s not a bed available between here and Tampa.”

Excellent news is, there are plans for a $25 million dollar enlargement, which shall be funded by the one-cent sales tax Collier voters passed last November. Even so, Burgess says that funding is just for the building, and far more might be wanted to get it up and operating.

Meantime, the David Lawrence Middle plans to show to non-public donors for a $400,000 enlargement of its youngsters’s unit so as to add six more beds by August.

As for Lindy and Lindsey Thomas, they encourage struggling households to hitch family help at an area chapter of Nationwide Alliance on Mental Sickness. That help is what helped them keep on in probably the most difficult of occasions.

“During this process, there are lots of spirals up and spirals down. Hope and heartbreak, and then happiness and disappointment,” Lindy Thomas stated.

“Don’t give up,” adds Lindsey Thomas. “You’ve got to keep looking. There is hope.”


Florida ranks final on the record with regards to spending for mental well being care, but Collier County is working on wide-reaching plan, that may make it a prime priority.

“One of the things that surprised me, was that in Collier County we have a strategic plan for virtually everything, from sidewalks and median landscaping to libraries, everything. The only thing we don’t have is a strategic plan for how we deal with our community mental health function,” stated Collier County Commissioner Andy Solis.

Solis spent his first yr in office digging into the elements he says stall mental health remedy, and meeting with those that had touchpoints with the mentally unwell, like Decide Janeice Martin who runs Collier County’s Mental Health Courtroom.

“When Commissioner Solis got elected, he said ‘Well, I want to try and understand the issue,” Decide Martin stated. “And we kept sort of blowing his mind because every time he thought he got his arms around it, there was more to it.”


The issues included jails being pressured to deal with mentally sick, once they really belong in remedy.

Disaster intervention training helps deputies de-escalate confrontations and divert those deemed mentally ailing to the David Lawrence Middle.

Solis says the difficulty that arises when sufferers are sent to the middle is they are overwhelmed and sometimes don’t have enough beds.

“David Lawrence Center only has 30 beds for our community mental health function. That means we have a total capacity of 30 beds for almost 400,000 people in Collier County. Do the math and you realize immediately that it’s not enough. So we end up holding these people for a certain amount of time and then releasing them,” Solis stated.

The necessity for extra room, means the deliberate $25-million dollar enlargement can’t come soon enough. Within the meantime, Collier Commissioners are working with a workforce of specialists to develop a strategic plan for mental health.

Solis needs the county to collect info from regulation enforcement, the courts, and others to make selections based mostly on knowledge, and never just concepts.

The Mental Health committee will current its plan to Collier Commissioners in June with hopes of finalizing a plan by yr’s finish.

Under are mental well being assets obtainable to Southwest Floridians at the nationwide and native degree.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline

David Lawrence Middle  (Collier County)

National Alliance on Mental Illness, Collier County

National Alliance on Mental Sickness, Lee, Charlotte, Hendry Counties

The Nationwide Alliance for Caregiving gives a free handbook
Circle of Care: A Guidebook for Mental Health Caregivers

Collier County Mental Well being Courtroom

Lee County Mental Health Courtroom

Melancholy and Bipolar Help Alliance

Native Help Groups: Nervousness and Melancholy Association of America

U.S. Department of Well being and Human Providers (Mental Well being and Habit Insurance coverage Assist)


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