Unicorn' volunteer Pat Savino has been blessing to Suncoast Mental Health Center

Debra Engle, For Luminaries Published 9:14 p.m. ET April 10, 2018
Volunteer Appreciation Week Profile: April 15 - 21, 2018

Luminaries Dance
(Photo: Cathy Cordeiro/For Luminaries)

Volunteers are precious to any nonprofit organization.

For a mental health nonprofit, where individual challenges are not fully understood and easily identified, having volunteers like Patricia "Pat" Savino are the rarest of precious hearts and souls.

Savino is a “unicorn” volunteer, who retired with her husband Chris to the Treasure Coast two years ago. She immediately reached out to Suncoast Mental Health Center for volunteer opportunities in hopes of continuing to enrich the lives of children affected by mental and behavioral illnesses.

Savino was an educator in her native New York, who has transplanted her 30-plus years of service to children to this local mental health community.

Savino became a member of the resource planning committee at Suncoast, helping with the recent "Sweetheart of a Dance" in Vero Beach. She’s also volunteered at the Vero Beach Wine + Film Festival, Marathon of the Treasure Coast, Met’s games and more.

She chairs the Suncoast board’s Quality Safety and Compliance Committee and advocates for mental health first-aid in the community. Savino is exactly that rareunicorn of a volunteer every nonprofit hopes walks in the door.

Suncoast Mental Health Center is extremely grateful to her for all she does shining light on these illnesses. You are appreciated Pat!

  • Liz McKinley, Kim Capen and Kristin Stanley
    Liz McKinley, Kim Capen and Kristin Stanley
  • Art Ciasa, Jerusha Stewart and Dave Cook
    Art Ciasa, Jerusha Stewart and Dave Cook
  • Diego and Katie Henriquez, Drew Sweeney, Kayla Gavel and Natalie and Joseph O'Neill
    Diego and Katie Henriquez, Drew Sweeney, Kayla Gavel and Natalie and Joseph O'Neill
  • Patrick Ayers and Brad Jefferson
    Patrick Ayers and Brad Jefferson
  • Ron and Diana Dichter with Roger Lynch
    Ron and Diana Dichter with Roger Lynch
  • Pam Monte and Karen Cole
    Pam Monte and Karen Cole
  • Mary and Art Ciasca with Karen and David Cook
    Mary and Art Ciasca with Karen and David Cook
  • Angela Morgan, Susan Horn and Bridget Rainey
    Angela Morgan, Susan Horn and Bridget Rainey
    Angela Morgan, Susan Horn and Bridget Rainey
  • Elizabeth Lara and Diana Lara
    Elizabeth Lara and Diana Lara

Many thanks to Stuart Magazine for sharing these great photos!

Quail Valley Charities gives out $511,000 to nonprofits, including Suncoast Mental Health Centers

Quail Valley Charities distributed $511,000 to 33 local nonprofit programs that focus on children and their education. Since the inception of Quail Valley Charities, $4.5 million dollars has been raised at the annual Quail Valley Charity Cup and donated to children's programs.

Beautification Day

When local volunteers at Suncoast Mental Health Center toured the facility recently, they agreed that the therapy rooms were in need of a facelift. Without funding increases from the legislature for mental health spending in several years, the rooms were due for some freshening and updating.

'I appreciate and admire the core values at Suncoast. I know that they are at their heart doing their best to offer the kids and families they serve the most pleasing atmosphere to conduct therapy in. They just need a little help to make the place fresh and new. I'm happy that I can be a part of this project,' said Angela Conti, volunteer.

She and others from the volunteer committee have reached out to area businesses, agencies and non-profits for donations to the beautification day project. They immediately got a response from the Royal Palms of St. Lucie, a service-driven organization dedicated to bettering the lives of women and children in St. Lucie County. The Palms will be sending a group of ladies to help paint on Beautification Day, Feb. 27.

'We are extremely blessed to have so many volunteers, as well as dedicated staff coming in to help us with this project,' said Art Ciasca, Suncoast Mental Health Center's CEO. 'These folks are like gold in our eyes.'

Included in those organizations that have donated to Suncoast's Beautification Day are Sherwin Williams on Bayshore Boulevard in Port St. Lucie, Mustard Seed Thrift Store and the Home Depot in Fort Pierce. Additional donations that the center is seeking include therapy chairs, office desks and chairs, counter and lower kitchen cabinets (6 feet to 8 feet) and volunteers!

Tanya Brown, sister of Nicole Brown-Simpson, Shared her Story of Hope for Recovery

Tanya Brown, author of two books, mental health advocate, life coach and sister of Nicole Brown-Simpson will be visiting with community leaders on the Treasure Coast Thursday and Friday, January 21 and 22, speaking out about her mental illness.  Ms. Brown will be the guest in the homes of David and Karen Cook and Dr. James and Jennifer Strawn, where whe will share her story of her depression which nearly caused her to end her life by suicide.  Through counseling, therapy, the support of her family, and coping mechanisms, Tanya not only beat that depression, she went on to receive her Master’s Degree as a Mental Health Therapist and author 2 books which she hopes will assist others who struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts.   In “Finding Peace Amid the Chaos” she says, “They say the best revenge is success, and I’m ready to get revenge on depression!  I’m going to grab hold of what I have in my life, live it, and live it large!”

Tanya will be the guest of Suncoast Mental Health Center Board Members, David Cook (Okeechobee; 6:00 – 10:00 p.m.) and Jennifer Strawn (Fort Pierce; 6:30 – 10:30 p.m.) where she will share her story with guests in their homes, including community leaders, friends and advocates, provide her tips for dealing with depression, and encourage advocacy for mental health in general.  “We believe that having a person like Tanya come and share her story of hope for recovery is one of the best ways to get the message across.  Mental illness is real.  It impacts not only everyday folks, but those who seem to “have it all” it’s not something that you just shake off and deal with.  It’s effecting one in five of our kids, that’s enough for us to all sit up and take noticef” said Art Ciasca, CEO of Suncoast Mental Health Center.

Teen Organizes Toy Drive for Suncoast Children

We can’t thank our volunteers in Martin County enough for their support during our toy drive.  Thanks to Faiza and her friends at the Treasure Coast Rowing Club, our case managers were able to distribute toys to every childwho we serve who was also inneed this past holiday season.  We are grateful to everyone who helped us including LeGit Cuts Barbership, Club Pure the Friends of Monica Gonzales, staff and supporters. We are blessed to have your gifts for our kids.

Finding Peace Amid the Chaos


In November 2015, Suncoast Mental Health Center was honored to host Ms. Kathy Cronkite, actress, author and daughter of legendary news broadcaster Walter Cronkite at our Finding Peace Amid the Chaos event.  In this video, Ms. Cronkite describes her struggle with mental illness, the stigma  of shame surrounding her illness, and the importance of advocating for better access to mental health care.

Suncoast Mental Health, Inc. on WOKC

Two representatives from Suncoast Mental Health Center spoke at a recent Kiwanis Club of Okeechobee meeting.

Art Ciasca, the C.E.O and Deb Pizzimenti. The Director of Outreach visited the club to discuss the services Suncoast provides along with information regarding several mental health disorders. more . . .

TCPalm - Story on Vero Beach Wine & Film Festival

Jerusha Stewart is thrilled to present the inaugural Vero Beach Wine + Film Festival, June 9 to 12, 2016. It's Stewart's way of giving back to her newly adopted home – Vero Beach.

Stewart first visited Vero Beach three years ago and promptly fell in love with it. Originally from Wahiawa, Hawaii (on Oahu), Stewart says Vero reminds her of home. Read more ....

Suncoast Mental Health, Inc. on PSL TV

Runners to raise funds for mental health center

FORT PIERCE- Local runners Davina Jones, Dorian Newbern, Jodie Certosimo and Deb Pizzimenti recently teamed up to run the full marathon of the Treasure Coast on March 1 starting and ending at Indian Riverside Park in Jensen  Beach.

The marathon, in its second year, has donated more than $20,000 to local charities. These active running ladies decided that, after running several marathons between them, to form a relay team to raise awareness and funds for area nonprofit, Suncoast Mental Health Center, a recognized nonprofit by the Marathon  of the Treasure Coast organizers..

"We've run more than 15 marathons between us as well as the Ragnar Relay race series. We thought it would be fun to combine the two formats in our own backyard for an excellent cause," Newbern said.

Local pool company Louden Pools generously agreed to purchase them Team Fun-Diva­ Mental Skirts running shirts and the girls were in stride!The Skirts would love it if you would sponsor  their "legs!" Every dollar raised will directly benefit children and their families on the Treasure Coast dealing with behavioral and mental health issues.

Suncoast Mental Health Center has offices in all four counties. Statewide mental health funding is creeping slowly upward due to awareness and calls to action by volunteers at Suncoast and elsewhere; however, there are still some 64,000 families in the community without health insurance. Suncoast offers affordable services to these families while promoting educational efforts to stay on the front end of mental illness. The funds raised by the Skirts will help Suncoast to meet the ever-growing community need. 

Buzz TV hosted by Marcia Littlejohn

Jennifer Strawn shares her challenge with viewers; it is both emotion and thought provoking, and extremely inspiring. We are fortunate to have Jen on our Board of Directors, as she is educating community members and creating awareness about mental health issues and Suncoast Mental Health Center. Jen story is one of hope and recovery.


Community Cornerstones

Suncoast Mental Health Center CEO Art Ciasca and Director of Outreach Deb Pizzimenti had the pleasure of sharing Suncoast's mission, volunteer opportunities and upcoming Finding Peace Amid the Chaos event details with Neda Heeter and her audience on Community Cornerstones today.  Watch the interview below and make sure to follow Neda on Facebook and tune in on Wednesdays and Thursdays, WAXE 107.3 and 1370 radio channels, Vero Beach.  Thanks Neda for a great time this morning!

Remember to follow Community Cornerstones with Neda Heeter on Facebook!

TC Palm - Suncoast Mental Health Center receives grant

Suncoast Mental Health receives grant

Suncoast Mental Health Center was the recipient of a $15,000 grant from the John's Island Community Service League to provide behavioral and mental health services for children with no insurance.

The Vero Insider

Art Ciasca, CEO of Suncoast Mental Health, was featured on The Vero Insider radio program.  CLICK HERE to hear the interview.  Mr. Ciasca speaks about some of the upcoming events sponsored by Suncoast Mental Health.

Guest Column

On September 25, 2013, Art Ciasca, CEO of Suncoast Mental Health, was featured as a Guest Columnist for the Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers.  Here is his guest column.

The shocking and distressing news from Tampa regarding 12 year old middle school student Rebecca Sedwick committing suicide from being bullied by as many as 15 teenagers is outrageous and causes tremendous concern.  The reality is that Rebecca had been terrorized.   The thought of any child feeling such intense feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and wanting to end their life is unimaginable.  But it is happening at alarming rates.  And we should be aware that Rebecca’s feelings causing her suicide did not occur overnight; it was a long, slow buildup of intense emotions causing her to end her life by throwing herself off of a tower.    

Rebecca is one of the faces of the worst case scenario of bullying, a child choosing to end his or her life.  We should be aware that thousands of children experience bullying every day, whether it is at school, in cyber space, or in their neighborhood.  Children are constantly bombarded with negative, disrespectful , and violent messages in television, movies, and music.  They may witness violence and abuse in their own home.   All these factors, among others, encourage bullies to bully.

Each day in the U.S, there are approximately 11.5 youth suicides. Every 2 hours and 5 minutes, a person under the age of 25 completes suicide.   Suicide ranks as the third leading cause of death for young people (ages 15-19); only accidents and homicides occurred more frequently.   For every completed suicide by youth, it is estimated that 100 to 200 attempts are made. 

There are many children who are bullied and do not attempt suicide.  But we should be aware that children who are bullied can experience anxiety, depression, phobias, and/or post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).   A large, national survey of adolescent mental health reported that about 8 percent of teens ages 13-18 have an anxiety disorder, with symptoms commonly emerging around age 6. However, of these teens, only 18 percent received mental health care.  About 11 percent of adolescents have a depressive disorder by age 18, according to the National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A). Girls are more likely than boys to experience depression. The risk for depression increases as a child gets older. According to the World Health Organization, major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability among Americans age 15 to 44.

I urge concerned parents to explore any changes in their child. Children who are depressed may frequently complain of feeling sick, refuse to go to school, cling to a parent or caregiver, or worry excessively that a parent may die. Older children and teens may sulk, get into trouble at school, be negative or grouchy, or feel misunderstood. Ask questions regarding how their child is doing and being treated.  Speak with teachers about what the teacher is observing in the classroom, hallways, lunch room.  Speak with your child.  Do not take lightly a child’s reporting of being bullied.  If it appears there is bullying going on, report it to the teacher, principal, guidance counselor.  Build a team to defeat bullying.  

A concerned parent may want to consider outside assistance for the child.  The Child/Adolescent Anxiety Multimodal Study (CAMS), in addition to other studies on treating childhood anxiety disorders, found that high-quality cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), given with or without medication, can effectively treat anxiety disorders in children. One small study even found that a behavioral therapy designed to treat social phobia in children was more effective than an antidepressant medication.  There are excellent clinicians in our area that work exclusively with children and can assist the child towards overcoming the adverse effects of bullying.

The bottom line: Be vigilant and ensure that bullying ends for your child.  Seek assistance for your child if he or she appears to be suffering adverse effects of bullying.  Your child’s childhood and future are at stake.

Bullying Stops Here

The Bullying Stops Here initiative is a free panel presentation and question/answers session designed for parents, concerned community members, students, and professionals to learn about the effects of bullying, steps to help children, and efforts to end bullying in Indian River County. To learn more, please click the image below:

Bullying Stops Here

The Joint Commission

The Joint Commission is an independent, not-for-profit, national body that oversees the safety and quality of health care and other services provided in accredited organizations.  Concerns or issues can be directed to: The Joint Commission: www.jointcommission.org Fax: (630) 792-5636 Email: complaint@jointcommission.org