Naples Florida – Prevention. intervention. treatment or treatment. health.
Those are the pillars of the mental health unit in the Collier County Sheriff’s Office. The unit is specifically designed to handle calls involving people in crisis due to suspected mental illness or substance abuse.
Lieutenant Leslie Weidenhamer, who runs the mental health unit, said it was important to provide help and resources to those in need, rather than just taking them to prison.
“People with mental health challenges, substance abuse challenges, don’t get better in prison, they just get worse,” Weidenhamer said. “The place where they get better is in the community.”
The Mental Health Unit provides crisis intervention training to all Deputy Mayors. The unit also employs mental health professionals who respond along with deputies and perform wellbeing checks.
“I definitely think having both sides and being able to talk to someone and figure out how we can best help them with all the resources that we’ve put together is the best practice,” said Keri Miller, a fully working licensed clinical social worker. It’s time for the sheriff’s office.
The mental health unit provides training to the community. The unit also works closely with Collier County Public Schools to train teachers and assist students who may be experiencing difficulties.
Weidenhamer says the mental health unit has seen a spike in cases since the start of the pandemic, and those numbers have only risen during the holidays.
“A lot of the people we go out to work with are isolated from their families for various reasons, so we’re seeing that rise,” Weidenhamer said.
Weidenhammer tells us that the number of calls to a mental health unit has risen dramatically since the unit began in 2015.
In the first six months of the year, Weidenmiller said, the unit received more than fourteen hundred calls. That’s an average of about eight per day, which Weidenmiller says underscores the importance of the work they do.