By Beth Hatch, CEO of Nami Collier County
I stepped into the leadership role at nonprofit NAMI Collier County in late July, just before Hurricane Ian shook Southwest Florida to its core. The impact on the mental health of our community cannot be underestimated.
More than 15% of youth experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. Nearly 50 million American adults experienced a mental illness in 2019, yet more than half of adults with a mental illness do not receive treatment. One in Five Americans already have some form of mental health diagnosis.
While I was familiar with many of NAMI’s programs at my former position leading Pathways Early Education Center of Immokalee, I was surprised at how little is known in the community about NAMI Collier’s programs.
NAMI Collier is part of the National Alliance on Mental Illness network that includes the national and state organizations. NAMI Collier is unique in that it is the only NAMI in the country to be accredited by the Council on Accreditation and provides more programs and services for children 3 months old through seniors than is typical of most local NAMI organizations. Many of our programs are unique to NAMI Collier.
NAMI Collier helps people and families navigate the complex mental health system and offers unique, nonclinical programs and support groups that focus on wellness and personal recovery journeys. Our goal is to recognize the whole person, and not just their diagnosis.
NAMI Collier’s free programs include:
- Sara Ann Center, a safe, welcoming drop-in center for anyone over the age of 18 with a mental health diagnosis.
It offers daily support groups, outings to encourage socialization and community engagement, daily lunch and
activities to enrich the quality of life for members.
- Support groups for members and their families and caregivers and include groups for recovery skills, hearing
voices and seeing things, DBT peer-run skills training and NAMI Connection, a recovery support group for adults
living with various mental illnesses.
- Health Under Guided Systems (H.U.G.S.), supported by the Naples Children & Education Foundation (NCEF), founders
of the Naples Winter Wine Festival, responds to the complex needs of children at risk of or with behavioral
health problems in Collier County. The program provides English, Spanish and Creole universal screenings,
parenting classes and family support, and facilitates referrals for early identification and access to care.
- Supportive Housing helps people with mental illnesses overcome the barriers and challenges of homelessness to
work on recovery and wellness. NAMI’s Supportive Housing Specialist works with participants to find a secure
home, work toward employment and engage local resources for community-based living. In two years, more than 415
people have found housing through the program.
- Florida Self-Directed Care (SDC) allows program participants to make their own healthcare choices and actively
participate in their recovery from serious mental illnesses. Life Coaches assist participants establish
measurable recovery goals. SDC serves 90 people each year.
- CLEAR: Clearing the Way for Change in Florida is a peer-run service for any individual in search of connecting
with someone who has lived experience in mental health recovery. The service is available state-wide from 4 a.m.
to 10 a.m. and receives more than 400 calls per month.
When I arrived, our programs were held in several rented spaces, with the administration offices in a building on the other side of town. Steps were already in motion to find a new home to better accommodate our programs.
We hope to soon announce plans to move to a new facility, which will allow our programs to serve more people as the community and the need for our services grows.
With roots dating back to 1987, NAMI Collier County remains a nonprofit dedicated to helping people navigate their mental health journey through an array of programs for members of all ages and families.
About the Author
Beth Hatch is CEO of the nonprofit NAMI Collier County, which relies on grants and donations to fund all its free programs.
Read more about Hurricane Ian’s impact on mental health from: