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Leo Share Story

Leo’s life was becoming unmanageable. The 16-year-old was experimenting with drugs, lying to his parents, skipping school, hanging with the wrong crowd and getting into trouble with the law. His alcoholic stepfather and his mother fought regularly. Yelling and screaming was all he knew. Problems in the home got worse when his stepfather began having immigration problems and his mother was diagnosed and underwent treatment for a serious medical condition.

Leo became very aggressive at home and his mother couldn’t control his truancy. She tried her best to get him to school, but she worked all day in the fields during picking season in Immokalee (a largely migrant, impoverished agricultural community more than 35 miles away from Naples) and was rarely home to monitor him. He was referred to the Collier County Truancy Court, an intensive, short term intervention program that helps at risk, truant youth attend and succeed in school. Through the program, David Lawrence Center provides mental health and substance abuse assessments, case management and prevention and intervention services.

As Leo began to work on his anger and behavior issues with the therapist, it became and more and more clear that he was severely depressed. He struggled to stop using pot and got caught being out past curfew. He violated probation and was sent to jail on several occasions. He was now at risk of being sent to a commitment program, but instead he voluntarily entered the Breaking the Chains Group, an intensive substance abuse group therapy program for teens who struggle with coexisting substance dependence and mental health and behavioral issues such as depression, anxiety and anger.

He was also referred to Psychiatric Medical Services where he worked closely and routinely with a psychiatrist on the right medications for his symptoms using the Center’s new Telepsychiatry Program. Telepsychiatry uses secure, high-definition video conferencing technology to bring doctors, therapists and patients between the Naples Main Office and the Immokalee Satellite Office together “virtually” to increase accessibility, eliminate barriers to seeking treatment, improve care and reduce costs.

Giving Leo more access to the doctors meant better communication on dosage, symptoms and mood. Because of Telepsychiatry, doctor availability in Immokalee went from twice a month to four days a week and greatly improved scheduling and rescheduling timely medication management visits.

His mother said, “When we first brought him to David Lawrence Center he was suicidal and felt he didn’t have a reason to be alive.” Once the medications began to help his thoughts become more clear and his behavior and impulses to get under control, he was able to share in group and work on his sobriety and coping skills. She adds, “The groups helped him see that a life with drugs, crime and no education gets you nowhere. He doesn’t want to go back to that.”

Life in Immokalee can be hard. Driving to Naples for weekly appointments wasn’t an option for his family. The Telepsychiatry program made it easier for Leo to monitor his medications which helped him stay sober and manage his depression. “Things are very different now at home. We can all see the change in Leo. He communicates better, doesn’t fight and scream, and laughs and plays more with his sisters,” she adds.

Leo, sober now for four months and staying out of trouble, has graduated the Breaking Chains Group and continues his outpatient medication management visits through the Telepsychiatry program. He is working towards finishing his GED and hopes to buy his mother a house some day. She adds, “It is wonderful that there is a place like David Lawrence Center available in Immokalee. David Lawrence Center has had a great impact on our family.”