LEE COUNTY, Fla.- Lee County has seen its fair share hoarding horrors this year. It's a problem stirring county agencies to develop a Hoarding Task Force, to better address the problem in 2011.
From hundreds of cats left inside a single Lehigh Acres home, to a decaying body, kept inside a room to rot for over a year in Fort Myers... 2010 was a year filled with shocking cases of hoarding in Lee County.
"It's not new, but in this community, at the level that it's been happening, it's bringing us all to the table to come up with some solutions," Stacey Cook-Hawk, of Lee Mental Health said.
The new Hoarding Task Force joins law enforcement with social service programs, pooling the agencies together to better address extreme cases of hoarding in the area.
"Trying to make them pay fines and putting them into court is only going to be a short-term solution to a long-term problem," Adam Leath of Lee County Animal Services said.
Instead, the Task Force wants to focus on treatment. For example, a Cape Coral house was found flooded with dozens of cats in November. Instead of pressing charges, the couple was first offered treatment.
"What you're seeing, the cats, the deleterious condition of the home, all those are symptoms. What we want to do is to get to the root of the problem. And honestly, it's going to be mental health counseling," Leath said.
Experts say responding to hoarding cases caught too late can add up to a costly expense for taxpayers. The Hoarding Task Force hopes through early intervention they can cut costs, all while helping hoarders.
"It typically gets to the point of no return, and then people are forced to accept treatment. We want to figure out, how do we intervene sooner?" Cook-Hawk said.
The Hoarding Task Force's next meeting is scheduled for late January.