Collier County commissioners choose location for $25 million mental health center

Reporter: Rachel Cox-Rosen Writer: Melissa Montoya
Published: Updated:
Collier County commissioners approved a site for a future mental health facility next to the David Lawrence Center. (CREDIT: WINK News)

Warning: This story discusses the topic of suicide that some people may find disturbing

Marine Corps veteran Ben Walker has fought multiple battles.

He has fought in a war and battled addiction, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I was very suicidal with my drug abuse and alcohol,” Walker said. “I pretty much had no hope.”

He was without help and Collier County couldn’t help him.

“I kept asking for help here in Collier County and they kept shipping me off to Bay Pines in Tampa,” Walker said.

But soon, Collier County will expand its mental health services with a $25 million mental health facility. On Tuesday, Collier County commissioners chose the site of the project. The center will go in an empty lot near the David Lawrence Center. Commissioners chose that spot instead of an area near the Naples Jail Center to avoid stigmatizing those seeking mental health services.

It’s a game-changer, said Collier County Commissioner Andy Solis.

“That will be a centralized place where whatever services the person requires will then be coordinated,” Solis said.

The David Lawrence Center for Behavioral Health CEO Scott Burgess said the issues facing  Walker, the veteran, are typical in Collier County.

“Our capacity is more than strained,” Burgess said. “And we are having to send literally hundreds of Collier residents out of Collier County.”

If not out of the county, then into a Naples jail cell.

That’s where many experiencing a mental health or addiction crisis have to turn to.

The services at the new center will go beyond just crisis management according to 20th Judicial Circuit Judge Janeice Martin, who oversaw the county’s mental health court for several years.

“Crisis happens, but I’m excited about the increase (in) the capacity for prevention, for education, for maintenance of people once we can establish stability,” Martin said. “That’ll be really where the return on investment is the greatest.”

Walker thinks the new center will be a great asset for Collier County.

He hopes it will keep others from suffering the way he did.

If you are struggling or if you know a loved one who is in trouble, there is help and you are not alone. There is free and immediate support available 24/7. Below is a list of important resources:

In An Emergency

If you or a loved one is in immediate danger calling 911 and talking with police may be necessary. It is important to notify the operator that it is a psychiatric emergency and ask for an officer trained in crisis intervention or trained to assist people experiencing a psychiatric emergency.

In A Crisis

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – Call 800-273-TALK (8255)

If you or someone you know is in crisis—whether they are considering suicide or not—please call the toll-free Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) to speak with a trained crisis counselor 24/7.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline connects you with a crisis center in the Lifeline network closest to your location. Your call will be answered by a trained crisis worker who will listen empathetically and without judgment. The crisis worker will work to ensure that you feel safe and help identify options and information about mental health services in your area. Your call is confidential and free.

Crisis Text Line – Text NAMI to 741-741

Connect with a trained crisis counselor to receive free, 24/7 crisis support via text message.

National Domestic Violence Hotline – Call 800-799-SAFE (7233)

Trained expert advocates are available 24/7 to provide confidential support to anyone experiencing domestic violence or seeking resources and information. Help is available in Spanish and other languages.

National Sexual Assault Hotline – Call 800-656-HOPE (4673)

Connect with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area that offers access to a range of free services. Crisis chat support is available at Online Hotline. Free help, 24/7.

The CDC recommends everyone familiarize themselves with the warning signs of suicide, which may include:


  • A person thinking about or threatening suicide or seeking a way to kill themselves
  • Increased substance abuse
  • Feelings of purposelessness, anxiety, being trapped, or hopeless
  • Withdrawing from people and activities
  • Expressing unusual anger, recklessness, or mood changes

To access more tools, you can visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness’s website.

This resource list is courtesy of the NAMI support page.

If you want to learn more about suicide prevention and awareness or other mental health conditions, Lee Health offers the following resources:

The Lee Health Behavioral Health Center offers assistance and support. To speak with a team member for an appointment for you or a loved on please call 239-343-9180.

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