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Lee Schools To Partner With Lee Health To Expand Mental Health Services

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Wikimedia Commons
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The School District of Lee Countyhas partnered with Lee Healthto create a program to help connect families to mental health services.

The School District’s Director of Counseling and Mental Health Services, Lorie Brooks, said the district wants to ensure children get access to  the care they need.

"Some need referrals for outside services, additional layers of medical treatment so when kids have complex needs, that’s where we need to partner," Brooks said. "That’s where Kids’ Minds Matteras an organization with Lee Health is a game changer for us."

Kids' Minds Matter is a collaborative effort between Lee Health’s Golisano Children's Hospital and the Lee Health Foundation that focuses on mental and behavioral health. 

Lee Health Vice President of Mental and Behavioral Health, Paul Simeone, said Kids' Minds Matter reached out to Lee Schools to find a way to connect high-risk students and vulnerable families to essential services. 

Through the partnership, Kids’ Minds Matter will be placing mental health navigators in Lee County schools. The navigators will connect parents with resources and services at Lee Health and throughout the mental health community. They’ll also serve as guides to help navigate the intricate world of those service providers at no cost

Simeone said they will focus on placing navigators in elementary schools first.  

"We want to make sure that we intervene as early as possible with kids who are struggling," Simeone said.  "These are high-need, high-risk kids that will be shepherded through the process in a way that helps them not develop more serious problems down the road as they become adults."

Colonial Elementary and Ray V. Pottorf Elementary have been selected as pilot schools for the program. The hope is to expand this resource to all schools in the county.  

The Lee County School Board will consider approving the Mental Health Navigator program at their next meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 10.


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Andrea Perdomo is a reporter for WGCU News. She started her career in public radio as an intern for the Miami-based NPR station, WLRN. Andrea graduated from Florida International University, where she was a contributing writer for the student-run newspaper, The Panther Press, and also a member of the university's Society of Professional Journalists chapter.