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Pediatric Mental Health Care in Southwest Florida

Bernadeta via Flickr

The National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, Inc. found Florida ranks 49th in the country on per-capita spending on access to mental healthcare services.  A state Department of Children and Families report finds more than 330,000 children in Florida struggle with serious emotional disturbances.  

Mental health care for children is a growing need in Southwest Florida, with major providers in Lee, Charlotte, and Collier Counties expanding their pediatric facilities to treat patients in crisis. Many of these patients are involuntarily committed for a period of up to 72 hours under the Florida Baker Act. SalusCare in Fort Myers has expanded bed capacity in its Children’s Crisis Unit to meet growing demand.  The David Lawrence Center is Collier County’s only Baker Act receiving facility and earlier this year announced a $250,000 expansion of its inpatient pediatric unit as well as an expansion of children’s outpatient services.  Meanwhile, in Punta Gorda, Charlotte Behavioral Health Care plans to break ground in October on a 10-bed crisis stabilization unit, also to meet growing demand.  We’ll explore efforts to meet the growing demand for pediatric mental healthcare services in Florida and address concerns over Florida’s Baker Act statute.


Tina Sumo, Senior Asst. Vice President of Acute Care & Residential Services for SalusCare

Melissa Caldwell, Naples resident and the mother of a child using mental health services.

Jennifer Ernst, Chief Operating Officer, Charlotte Behavioral Health.

Scott Burgess, CEO of the David Lawrence Center.