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Mental health agency the ‘go-to’ place

Mental health agency the \’go-to\’ place Monday, November 27, 2006–With an average 20 calls and seven drop-ins a day, Naples, FL and the Mental Health Association of Collier County has its work cut out for them.
While one function of this organization is to be the first contact for residents in need of professional counseling for conditions ranging from anxiety to substance abuse, the agency also provides support programs that address other personal obstacles and tragedies — such as depression, bereavement, alternative lifestyle support, and drug- and alcohol-related recovery and support.

Considered the “go-to” mental health organization for many other agencies (including many fellow United Way agencies) that are in search of counseling resources and options beyond their programs’ scope, the agency is a first-line referral source for more than 80 licensed mental health professionals in the area.

With 40 years under its belt, the agency has been instrumental in initiating and sponsoring public awareness and education programs. These include Putting Children First, a court-mandated class for parents that helps raise awareness about the emotional trauma children can feel during divorce, and Families in Transition, another court-mandated class that helps children between the ages of 5 and 14 understand their feelings during divorce.

However, one of the more revolutionary programs the agency has initiated is its Senior Peer Counseling program, which provides emotional and mental support to seniors in need. In fact, the success of this program is evident in the impressive number of clients-to-counselors conversions over the years. With training and guidance from the agency, many people who were once on the receiving end of this program are now on the giving end.

On the other end of the spectrum, another United Way agency, Catholic Charities of Collier County, is making strides in a counseling program that targets 3- to 5-year-old children with behavioral challenges.

“We’ve seen a 17 percent increase since last year in the number of children with moderate to severe difficulties in areas of emotion control, concentration and general ability to get along with other children who would benefit from our expansion of this specialty counseling program,” says Mike D’Amico, executive director of Catholic Charities of Collier County, a United Way agency that also provides counseling to people of all ages at its Santa Barbara location.

The agency recently sent a proposal to the Wine Festival in the hopes of receiving grants to fund the expansion of their assessment and counseling program for this young population. “Without the United Way, we couldn’t be providing this program,” says D’Amico. “Now we’re hoping to draw support from other great community organizations that have a special interest in programs for children.”

As the holiday season gets into full force, it’s important to take stock of our capacity to manage and control triggers for stress, depression and regression. Please consider contacting one of these agencies if you or a loved one needs confidential counseling.

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