FORT MYERS, Fla. — Mental health support for kids comes to Southwest Florida.
Lee Health Foundation and Golisano Children’s Hospital unveiled a program called Kids Minds Matter Tuesday morning. It’s a personal cause for founders Susan Goldy and Scott Spiezle.
“I have a daughter who’s bipolar and around 6th grade she was suicidal,” said Spiezle.
But thanks to help from the Children’s Hospita in Philadelphial, Spiezle said she was able to get diagnosed and receive psychiatric support. He said his daughter recently graduated with her master’s degree in psychology.
Goldy said now it’s their turn to help the children of Southwest Florida.
"The goal is to stabilize kids at the earliest possible age and get them the help they need to be productive and go through school,” said Goldy.
“Anxiety in early elementary school is the first sign. Parents think 'oh, the kid is just acting out, we don’t have to address it.' Well, many times you can nip it in the bud,” said Spiezle.
Lee Health and Golisano Children’s Hospital said they need $10million to get the initiative up and running. And the money will go towards making the proper services and technology available for kids of all different backgrounds.
“There will be a group of people that will be looking at ways to spread that money to the appropriate places of care, which will include community input,” said John Chomeau of Lee Health. He added the group will ask the community how they should budget the funds.
“So we’ll be talking to the community about where they think the most critical needs might be, like in the school systems or in certain communities that are underserved,” said Chomeau.
Golisano Children’s Hospital hired child advocate Richard Keelan to provide training for teachers and parents to handle children with mental health issues.
“What we’re trying to do is give the public and Lee staff and Lee teachers or anybody working with youth the skills they need to effectively work with our youth to help identify and address mental health issues,” said Keelan.
He said it could benefit people who don’t deal with people who have mental illnesses on a regular basis.
“It also reduces the stigma. We work really hard so you don’t avoid kids with behavioral or mental health issues because you don’t understand what’s going on,” said Keelan.
Lee Health and Golisano Children’s Hospital said they plan to raise the $10 million with the help of donations within the next three years. Then they can roll out the program in Southwest Florida schools and hospitals.