Collier H.U.G.S.


In 2009, an NCEF study on men­tal ill­ness returned dis­turb­ing results: Nearly 20 per­cent of Collier’s chil­dren may be suf­fer­ing from undi­ag­nosed and untreated behav­ioral health issues.

Picture of Sara L . Henry, MA, LMFT

Sara L . Henry, MALMFT

In response to this dire news, the Col­lier H.U.G.S. (“Health Under Guided Sys­tems”) early inter­ven­tion pro­gram was cre­ated by NAMI of Col­lier County in part­ner­ship with Able Acad­emy, David Lawrence Cen­ter, Col­lier County Sheriff’s Office, Col­lier County Pub­lic Schools, Youth Haven and Col­lier Health Ser­vices and proudly spon­sored by The Naples Chil­dren & Edu­ca­tion Foun­da­tion (“NCEF”).

The Col­lier H.U.G.S. pro­gram seeks to fill the men­tal health void in numer­ous ways. By tar­get­ing vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren and their fam­i­lies, the pro­gram pro­vides edu­ca­tion and early iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of men­tal health prob­lems in health and child­care set­tings. Age appro­pri­ate ques­tion­naires are used to screen chil­dren and deter­mine who might be at risk and in need of a clin­i­cal assessment.

There is increas­ing recog­ni­tion that the first few years of a child’s life are a par­tic­u­larly sen­si­tive period in the process of devel­op­ment, lay­ing a foun­da­tion in child­hood and beyond for cog­ni­tive func­tion­ing; behav­ioral, social, and self-regulatory capac­i­ties; and phys­i­cal health. Yet many chil­dren face var­i­ous stres­sors dur­ing these years that can impair their healthy
devel­op­ment. Early child­hood inter­ven­tion pro­grams such as the Col­lier H.U.G.S. pro­gram are designed to mit­i­gate the fac­tors that place chil­dren at risk of poor out­comes. Such pro­grams pro­vide sup­ports for the par­ents, the chil­dren, or the fam­ily as a whole.

I am par­tic­u­larly proud of the role I have been for­tu­nate to play for H.U.G.S. and the Col­lier com­mu­nity, devel­op­ing the global assess­ment pro­to­col and pro­vid­ing live clin­i­cal assess­ments for the chil­dren and their fam­i­lies in our com­mu­nity. Since Octo­ber 2010, we have screened more than 600 chil­dren younger than five for emo­tional and behav­ioral prob­lems, pro­vid­ing live clin­i­cal assess­ments for 135 who oth­er­wise would not have been assessed for nec­es­sary treat­ment. We plan to screen another 500 chil­dren by June 2011.

The Col­lier H.U.G.S. pro­gram cul­mi­nates with spe­cial­ized guid­ance and peer sup­port to help fam­i­lies find needed ser­vices. In part, what is mak­ing Col­lier H.U.G.S. an early suc­cess is its acces­si­bil­ity and peer support.

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