The grant has funded two staff members to expand free mental and behavioral health services to Collier County children from 2 months to age 18
Through its hurricane long-term recovery program, the American Red Cross has granted nearly $200,000 to NAMI Collier County to expand its free children’s program, Health Under Guided Systems (HUGS).
The grant has allowed NAMI Collier County to hire Carolyn Staley-Penix, a licensed clinical social worker, as the new HUGS Clinical Director, and Krissy Yanes, as parenting educator and resilience specialist. The two have more than 45 years of experience providing behavioral, mental health, educational and parental involvement services.
“These two additions to our team will help with early intervention, getting things in place so we can provide the care and intervention that children and the families need, which is especially important as our community continues to cope with the effects of Hurricane Ian,” said Beth Hatch, CEO of NAMI Collier County. “We recognized barriers in our community, including lack of providers, long wait lists and challenges with insurance and Medicaid. The Red Cross grant has allowed us to provide immediate access to help those we serve. Through the generous support of the Red Cross and NCEF (Naples Children & Education Foundation), we are able to focus on the whole family, so that they are successful supporting their children.”
Both Staley-Penix and Yanes were formerly with the Collier County Public Schools (CCPS). Staley-Penix provides therapy to children in the program, carries out some global assessments of children entering the program, attends psychiatrists’ meetings to advocate for families as needed, and oversees the effectiveness of the entire program, so NAMI Collier County can help families in crisis immediately with no waiting. Yanes, who is bilingual, works with families and educators providing case management for new and existing families, screening children, leading workshops and one-on-one coaching sessions to educate parents, and developing and implementing resilience education for community members who work directly with children.
The grant has also allowed NAMI Collier to restructure its referral process to ensure clinical oversight and guidance for every case, increase the number of home visits and in-person contacts, increase documentation of goals and outcomes, provide in-agency and community-based trainings, strengthen partnerships with the CCPS and early learning providers for comprehensive and onsite interventions, provide individualized parenting support and hire NAMI Collier Care Coordinators with higher levels of education and specialized experience.
The NAMI Collier HUGS program serves Collier County children from 2 months to 18 years old experiencing developmental, social, emotional or behavioral difficulties. NAMI Collier Care Coordinators screen children at locations throughout the county, including Guadalupe Centers, Pathways Early Education Center, Child’s Path locations, FunTime locations, Salvation Army and Grace Place, as well as working with the CCPS’s 36 pre-Kindergarten classrooms. When needs are identified by professionals in the school system for children in kindergarten through 12th grade or parents recognize the additional need for support, NAMI Collier Care Coordinators provide connections to private sector therapy and supportive services. Currently, the program, a blueprint partner for NCEF as part of their children’s mental health initiative in Collier County, provides screening for over 2,000 children annually and provides care coordination to more than 400 children and families who acquire assessments, intervention and services.