Over the last year, with the generosity and support of our community, the Kids’ Minds Matter team at Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida has grown! 

Due to the increased need and support, I have moved into a supervisory position to oversee both the public education efforts as well as the new Mental Health Navigator program we have started with the Lee and Collier School Districts. Lorena Rodriguez is now coordinating the public education programs and we have hired aexperienced Child Advocate, Laura Ferrari, to teach courses with us to expand our prevention efforts. With all our public education training and support over the last few years, we have reached more than 2,500 people including college and high school students, teachers, first responders, parents, nurses and other health care providersWe have been able to reach people from all walks of life.  

Faced with the changes made necessary by the pandemic, the public education component has had to adapt and make our courses digital. We have successfully started and then transitioned a support group for parents of children with special needs to a virtual format as well. We are attracting families from as far away as Wisconsin to our support group. A great recent example of our public education efforts was hosting virtual Mental Health Awareness training for 126 NeoGenomics staff on May 7th! Currently, Mental Health First Aid trainings are on hold as we wait for the National Council of Behavioral Health to come out with a much-anticipated virtual training. 

During this school year, we hired three school-based navigators dedicated to Lee and Collier County school systems. The navigators provide peer mentoring and support for families whose students face mental health challenges. The navigators are experienced professionals who also have family members who have struggled with mental illness. This unique combination of experience and qualifications allows the navigators to connect with the family and assist them in accessing services. The program is in its infancy but has already produced remarkable results for many of the families we are serving. The navigator program has been a blessing for these already stressed families during the pandemicThe program will be used as a pilot project to acquire a SAMHSA grant co-sponsored by Lee Health and the Lee and Collier County public schools. 

While we have only scratched the surface in educating our community and supporting our families in need, we are seeing results and truly making an impact! Everyone who has been trained in Mental Health First Aid says how much they have learned and feel more prepared to work with youth. We frequently receive feedback from parents that this has changed their family’s livesAs advocates for children’s mental health, every donor is truly making a difference in the well-being of our community. 

On behalf of the Kids’ Minds Matter team at Golisano Children’s Hospital, and the thousands of children you are impacting, thank you!  

Richard Keelan 
Child Advocacy Supervisor, Kids’ Minds Matter
Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida