In 2007, the number one priority from Community Health Visioning 2017 was for the community to develop a comprehensive continuum of mental health and substance abuse services. The area had the lowest per capita ratio of psychiatric professionals in the state and no local psychiatric hospital services. There was no partial hospitalization and limited intensive outpatient services. Lee Health served as convener of this collaborative process. Leaders included the Lee Health CEO, a Lee County commissioner, business leaders, the United Way president and the National Alliance of Mental Health executive director. By 2011, collaborators had helped to create 322 new behavioral health beds in the community and 12 new providers.
The Bob Janes Triage Center was created in April 2008 on the grounds of Lee Health, now SalusCare, with a dozen partner agencies investing and benefiting. Now providing 58 low-demand shelter beds for persons with symptoms of mental illness or addictions, this center offers an alternative to inappropriate emergency department use or incarceration for minor offenders, primarily homeless, who are not a danger to themselves or others. They receive a health assessment, are screened for both mental illness and addictions, and are offered referrals to treatment and support services. About one-third complete the program or accept a referral. Incarceration for these low-level offenses has decreased by 46 percent. Since 2008, 2,892 clients have been served.
Park Royal Psychiatric Hospital, a 114-bed private venture, opened in 2012 and has already expanded. Hope Clubhouse, modeled after the national Clubhouse format for employment support to adults with mental illness in the community, successfully established operations, incubated for a year in free space Lee Health provided, and began operations. They now have acquired their own permanent facility and continue to expand. Additional private investment continues to create residential and outpatient programs in the community.
New resources can be brought into a community. Collaboration among all community partners is critical. Start with existing resources and common goals. Be visible in goal setting and reporting results. Build the “Volkswagen” and don’t wait for the “Cadillac.” Success builds greater success.
While adult psychiatric and substance abuse treatment has significantly increased, more services are needed for children. The new Children’s Behavioral Health Task Force is now training pediatricians in REACH Institute best practices for integrating behavioral health into primary care practices. This pilot program with 25 pediatricians will be evaluated for continued expansion of anticipated successes.
Contact: Stephanie Wardein
Interim Director, Community Relations