Dr.-Paul-SimeoneSuicide is the third-leading cause of death for youth in Florida. A child or young adult commits suicide once every 30 hours.

An estimated 46,000 children in Southwest Florida are impacted by some form of mental illness.

Along with these alarming statistics, we also face a national shortage of providers who diagnose and treat mental health conditions. On average, children wait eight to 10 years from the onset of symptoms before they are diagnosed and treated. It’s no wonder families and providers alike feel an overwhelming sense of hopelessness.

However, Kids’ Minds Matter has stepped forward to boldly proclaim, “There is hope!”

In November, Golisano Children’s Hospital, Lee Health and the Lee Health Foundation introduced Kids’ Minds Matter as the region’s new strategic solution to mental and behavioral health. Families impacted by depression, anxiety and trauma now know they have an advocate in Kids’ Mind Matter.

Kids’ Minds Matter has grown beyond Lee Health to align Southwest Florida providers in the development of strategic solutions that improve access to high-quality care. Passionate leaders in local health care, education, law enforcement, judicial and nonprofit organizations have already begun mapping out a plan to better serve the youth of this community by sharing their collective expertise.

Three critical areas of focus have emerged as priorities:
• Legislative lobbying with a focus on breaking down silos, unifying stakeholders and lobbying for systematic change and sustainable funding for integrated pediatric mental health services.
• 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.
• Education aimed at improving public awareness and reducing stigma regarding mental health conditions.

Lee Health also is developing a first-of-its-kind TelePsychiatry program that will allow families to receive professional advice and counseling through a computer chat or mobile phone. This will expand access to providers and invite the best professionals across the nation to serve patients right here in Southwest Florida.

To make all this possible, Kids’ Minds Matter has launched an ambitious $10 million fundraising campaign. As a community-wide solution, its success hinges on community support. The children and parents of this community have waited far too long for the mental and behavioral healthcare services they so desperately need, and 2019 ushers in the beginning of a new movement.

To learn more about how donations to Kids’ Minds Matter enhance children’s mental and behavioral healthcare initiatives in Southwest Florida, please visit KidsMindsMatter.com or call 239-343-6950. You, too, can become an advocate for pediatric mental health, saving lives and healing families with a gift to Kids’ Minds Matter.

About the Author
Dr. Paul Simeone is vice president of mental and behavioral health for Lee Health.

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