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Lee County’s Triage Center needs support

November 8, 2011
Lehigh Acres Citizen

To The Editor:

Lee County Triage Center (LCT) needs you to contact your legislators to request their help and influence in the Florida State Legislature to get funds restored to this much needed health service. It is a model project to help diagnose those with addictions and other mental health problems so that they can start appropriate treatment.

Robert Janes, our deceased county commissioner from District 1, was very active in mental health issues in Lee County. He was responsible for establishing our Mental Health Court. So many of our homeless and veterans are troubled people who need to be processed through this court.

One of Bob Janes' final accomplishments is the Lee County Triage Center, which was named after him. The purpose of this clinic is to diagnose individuals who have come to the attention of first responders to evaluate mental status and drug/alcohol status so that people can receive the proper care.

Before the existence of LCT, police, fire and EMS workers had to guess whether someone was a danger to self or others. First responders lack the training to make that evaluation. Often patients in need of mental health care clog the courts and jails because no one knows how to evaluate their behavior, which is usually treatable. LCT provides both initial evaluation and assistance with finding voluntary treatment.

LCT's funding stopped in April when its three-year initial funding expired.

It is now in danger of permanently losing state funds as a result of being cut from Governor Scott's 2012 budget. LCT was originally funded from a Criminal Justice Grant (April 2008-April 2011) and matching County funds. Later stimulus money was received.

If LCT is allowed to close, it will be difficult to resurrect, as many factors had to fall in place to bring it into existence.

Ruth Cooper Center donated the use of an entire unoccupied building to LCT

Lee Memorial Hospital provided support

Southwest Florida Addiction Services (SWFAS) participated

County Commissioners supported it

United Way contributed

LCT gained access to patient data bases.

It is doubtful that the County could assemble such a complete support system again if LCT loses its current funding completely.

How many patients did it help? Some 1240 patients had 2070 admissions. Who does it help? Fifty-three percent of LCT's clients were homeless. It also serves veterans with mental health problems and others with psychiatric disorders or addictions.

Call or e-mail your elected representatives.

- State Sen. Liz Benaquisto (239) 433-6599,

- Rep. Paige Kreegel (441) 575-5820,

- Rep.Matt Caldwell (239) 246-2217,

- Gov. Rick Scott,

Joan Patterson

Lehigh Acres



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