Kids’ Minds Matter2020-03-24T17:35:29-04:00

Recent News and Updates

Advocating for Children’s Mental and Behavioral Health Care

Kids' Minds Matter


of all lifetime cases of
mental illness begin
by age 14


Ratio of population
to mental health
providers in Florida


of youth in the state and local juvenile justice system have a mental health condition

According to Mental Health America, six out of 10 young people who suffer mental illness don’t get the treatment they need. That’s because there is a critical shortage of pediatric mental and behavioral healthcare services in the U.S. Worse yet, most families struggle to pay for services that are available. This national crisis is affecting children and families in our region of Southwest Florida too. Golisano Children’s Hospital’s mental and behavioral health care fund – Kids’ Minds Matter – is here to help.

Because Kids’ Minds Matter

The Facts

  • 46,000 children in Southwest Florida who will suffer from severe mental illness at some point in their lifetime. And one out of seven will be affected as early as age two.
  • It’s hard to get help because there is only one mental health provider for every 750 people in Florida (Florida Behavioral Health Association). It’s truly a matter of life and death for many.
  • Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for children ages 10-24 in our state (Florida Behavioral Health Association).

Mental and Behavioral Healthcare Solutions

Children do best with early intervention, so it’s important to help young people before a crisis occurs. Kids’ Minds Matter is dedicated to fostering partnerships that support existing services, identifying gaps in the continuum of care, and innovating new treatments to meet the pediatric mental and behavioral healthcare needs in Southwest Florida. We are leading the way by unifying community partners to turn a scattered set of services into an effective and efficient pediatric mental and behavioral healthcare system.

Projects Funded by Kids’ Minds Matter

Projects Funded by Kids’ Minds Matter

These are some of the exciting projects funded with the money that has been raised by Kids’ Minds Matter so far:

  • Pediatric screening and treatment to provide much-needed early intervention services for young people dealing with anxiety, depression and trauma.
  • Lee Health’s Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, in collaboration with SalusCare and Southwest Florida Community Foundation, have trained local pediatricians in managing their patients’ depression and anxiety through the REACH program.
  • Certified child advocates are leading conversations in the community, providing courses for parents and college freshmen, as well as training hospital-based clinicians, emergency staff, first responders, and school nurses in care management and advocacy.

Advancing a Tiered Model of Care

Through a regional “Syntegration” conference organized by Lee Health and Kids Minds Matter, 65 of the top clinical and administrative leaders in our seven-county region convened to work on the goal of improving mental and behavioral healthcare outcomes over the next one to three years. Together, they shared ideas, concerns, and solutions, and developed a series of goals that provide the framework for a community-based, mental and behavioral healthcare improvement plan. The focus was on delivering the right care at the right place and right time across the full continuum of services offered in our community. It incorporates best practices to create an overall wellness plan for children with mental and behavioral illnesses and serves as a healing vision for families desperately in need of help. The result is a tiered model of care:

Digital Cognitive
Behavioral Therapy




What’s Next for Kids’ Minds Matter

What’s Next for Kids’ Minds Matter

Kids’ Minds Matter is launching its movement by aligning mental health providers, local and county agencies, the judiciary, law enforcement, schools, faith-based organizations, and the Lee Health team. Looking forward, Kids’ Minds Matter is committed to helping Lee Health launch its first-of-its-kind, integrated TelePsychiatry program. This leverages an evidenced based digital platform by which to screen, treat and educate families suffering from depression, anxiety and trauma. But that is just one example of the exciting things we see on the horizon!

When you support Kids’ Minds Matter, you help our partners in three critical areas:

  1. Legislative Lobbying – with a focus on breaking down silos, unifying stakeholders, and lobbying for systematic change and sustainable funding for integrated pediatric mental and behavioral healthcare services.
  2. Developing clinical pathways – to more effectively screen and treat patients by improving access and quality across the full continuum of care, as close to home as possible.
  3. Education – aimed at improving public awareness and reducing stigma regarding mental health conditions.

Ways to Support Kids’ Minds Matter

There are many ways to support Kids’ Minds Matter as we advocate for children’s mental and behavioral healthcare in Southwest Florida.

Expert Quotes About Children’s Mental Health

This is absolutely a life or death matter. By helping kids now, we are saving people’s lives in the future.  It should never reach the point where a child is harmful to the themselves or others because their mental and behavior healthcare needs were never met.

Dr. Emad Salman, Regional Medical Officer, Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida

Waiting for healthcare can make a difficult situation worse, sometimes with devastating results. Accessibility of care is the greatest challenge for children and families in our community.

Armando Llechu, Chief Administrative Officer, Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida

This is a national crisis, and as the adults in the room, we have a duty to step up and lead the way for better mental and behavior healthcare solutions for our children. If we can do that here in Southwest Florida, we can serve as a model for the rest of the country.

Dr. Paul Simeone, VP of Mental and Behavior Health, Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida

By donating to Kids’ Minds Matter, you are helping to usher in a future where the precious moments of childhood are not lost to anxiety, depression or trauma. You’re giving young patients the support they need to enjoy their lives now and become healthy adults in the future.

Armando Llechu, Chief Administrative Officer, Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida
Paul Simeone, Ph.D.

Meet Paul Simeone, Ph.D.

Dr. Paul Simeone, VP of Mental and Behavior Health, was recently recruited from Boston, where he was on the faculty at Harvard Medical School’s Dept. of Psychiatry. He is a practicing psychologist with more than 30 years of experience in teaching, leadership and program development and improvement. In his new role, he is charged with aligning the tiered model of care with existing and developing resources both at Lee Health and in the greater community. This will be a collaboration between Golisano Children’s Hospital and other regional mental and behavioral healthcare providers to increase access to appropriate care.

Susan Goldy & Scott Spiezle

Why Give? Susan Goldy & Scott Spiezle Share Their Story

When Susan Goldy and Scott Spiezle’s daughter was in elementary and middle school, she was suicidal. At night, she would tell her father, “I think I’m going to hurt myself,” and he would sleep on the bedroom floor to make sure this didn’t happen.

“We thought it was something we were doing, or not doing, as parents,” says Spiezle. “It wasn’t until we saw a foremost expert in pediatric mental healthcare at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia that we finally received the diagnosis and the needed treatment for her illness, Bipolar Disorder. Without proper care and services, I don’t think she would be with us today.”

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An estimated 280,000 kids live in Southwest Florida, and research shows that 1 in 5 of those ages 13-18 will experience a serious mental illness. In fact, at the opening of Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, they asked Dr. Salman: “Now that you have this great hospital, what’s your greatest need?’” He replied immediately, and with a sense of urgency: “We need a strong pediatric mental healthcare program.”

In 2016, the couple founded “Kids’ Minds Matter.” This grass roots effort has evolved into a regional movement to improve access to enhanced pediatric mental and behavioral healthcare services. To do so, they have generously funded efforts at Golisano Children’s Hospital, with a decided emphasis on collaborating with the greater Southwest Florida community.

“For us, it’s not about putting a name on a building, a room or equipment, we want to see the money raised go directly to provide care for youth,” adds Goldy.

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