Image of Doctor Paul SimeoneThe past year has been a banner period for Kids’ Minds Matter (KMM) and I want to take a few minutes to celebrate our collective accomplishments. Before I do though, I need to say a heartfelt “thank you” to all of you for your generosity, thoughtfulness and support. We come to you, year after year, asking for your help and, time and again, you join us in the shared vision of improving the pediatric behavioral health of our kids here in Southwest Florida. Just this past March, our gala raised 2.8 million dollars, an all-time high signaling KMM’s evolution from a fledging grassroots organization to a fully mature regional force. Words cannot describe how deeply grateful we are for your continued help!

People often ask me to describe my role as VP-Medical Director of Behavioral Health, a task which, in this context, provides a ready framework for looking at KMM. To my mind, I have three principle roles. The first is to set out a strategic plan for the development of pediatric and adult behavioral health services both at Lee Health and in our region. Second, I must work with colleagues at Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, and others at Lee Health, to inspire that strategic plan by building needed programs and services. Finally, and perhaps most critically, I must take the first two functions and bring them in to our community. This means establishing important partnerships with our friends and colleagues outside of Lee, so we can all work together to improve local access to high quality pediatric behavioral health services. Each of these three objectives represents a colorful thread, bright, textured and beautiful, which we in the community work to weave in to what is our collective tapestry. There are several examples of these varied accomplishments detailed in this comprehensive impact report, so I will not review them here. Suffice to say that all of them, taken either singly or in combination, reflect the explicit values of KMM. I am happy to report that we at Lee Health, KMM and the community are living and breathing this shared mission.

I wish to close with a final word about the times in which we are living. The current pandemic, unwelcome and unbidden, has changed our world for good, stressing and straining us all, especially those suffering from mental health and substance use conditions. We will get through this I am sure, but we need to take care of ourselves, one another, and our country. With your help, KMM will continue to play a vital role in addressing the mental health challenges of COVID-19 in our children, their families and our community. In these uncertain times, I’m reminded that it was John Lennon who observed, in a very different era, that “life is what happens while you’re busy making plans”. We would also do well to remember that it was he, too, who invited us to “imagine”, with courage and conviction, a world that is different from the one we know and love. At KMM, an appreciation of both of these perspectives will inform and enliven our important work moving forward. Onward!

In gratitude,

Paul G. Simeone, Ph.D.