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  • Marilyn Varco, Ph.D.

The Mental Health Crises in Collier County


In my twenty-five years as a private practice psychologist in Naples, I have seen the ever-increasing need for Mental Health Services, which has most recently exploded and contributed to our present-day Mental Health crises.

Collier’s booming population, devastating hurricanes, the  COVID pandemic, the opioid epidemic, and rising suicide rate have all increased the number of people needing care, as never seen before.  This is especially true among our senior population and families with children who are facing extreme economic hardships.

Compounding these crises is Collier’s present shortage of psychiatrists, psychologists, and other highly trained behavioral mental health professionals.  Rising housing costs and poor reimbursement rates from private and public insurance providers pose a significant challenge for recruiting and retaining qualified professionals in the field.

Research facts state that one in four adults and children experiences a mental, emotional, or psychological challenge in their lifetime. One in seven suffers from substance abuse.  Add to that fact, that 50 percent of the population will meet the criteria for mental illness in their lifetime.  When we apply these statistics to our community, it is evident how unprepared we are to meet our mental health challenges.

Both private and nonprofit mental health providers,  like The David Lawrence  Center, have done their best to provide the services needed by those struggling with mental health issues

As a member of the board of the David Lawrence Center, I have been passionate about supporting the DLC programs that provide the needed help to those children and adults struggling with depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges.

However, Collier’s mental health crises have put a strain on DLC, as it is the only community-based behavioral health center.  DLC lacks the space to provide more outpatient care.  Clients in need of inpatient care must wait for beds to become available and many have to leave to seek treatment elsewhere. Now in my retirement, I have committed my clinical expertise and advocacy to support DLC’s efforts to address our community crises

A recent solution to our mental health crises is the initiative, Hope for Collier: Building Stronger Minds Together.  This collaboration between DLC, Collier County, community partners, and supporters calls for a significant investment in programs, new state-of-the-art facilities, and building renovations.

Hope for Collier is the new publicly funded Collier County Behavioral Health Center that DLC will operate. This center will enable DLC to add 87 beds to treat people in crises and provide more clinical services.

I am enthusiastic about working with DLC to create solutions to our mental health problems.  DLC is a well-established and trusted provider with a 55-year history of providing trusted quality service and saving lives.

I believe the Hope for Collier initiative will be a great investment in providing the much-needed mental health programs to assist in the amelioration of Collier County’s mental health needs.

Marilyn J Varcoe, PhD is a retired licensed cognitive behavioral psychologist, life coach, author, and international speaker with a private practice in Naples for 25 years.  She currently lends her experience and expertise to The David Lawrence Center as a board member.


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