Mental health patients now pay a virtual visit

Mental health patients now pay a virtual visit

Velma Soliz appeared on a screen for her appointment with Dr. Eddy Benoit at David Lawrence Center in Naples. The 38-year-old mother was a 40-mile drive away, at the Lawrence Center’s Immokalee outpost, minutes from her mobile home.

“How are you doing?” said Benoit, her psychiatrist, leaning close to the monitor.

She greeted him with a wide smile, a feat in itself considering the epic loss in her life. When she was around 12, her stepfather shot her mother at their home. Her mother survived, but was later killed by a drunken driver. Her father’s body was found in a canal in Fort Lauderdale. Five years ago, her sister-in-law was murdered.

Soliz had dreams that portended the deaths.

By the time she went to David Lawrence, she couldn’t sleep, for fear another loved one would materialize in a foreboding dream.

“With the medications you prescribe, I can sleep through the whole night and I don’t wake up sweating,” Soliz said, wiping away tears.

“It’s good when you can cry,” Benoit said.

David Lawrence Center is the safety net mental health provider in Collier County. Providing care to Immokalee has historically been a challenge. Many clients in the far-flung town are transient and don’t own cars. In the past, a psychiatrist would visit a few times a month. With telepsychiatry, the center was able to more than double the number of clients in medication management, and anticipates more.