LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – An unassuming building on Lakeland Hills Boulevard aims to be the answer to a years-long problem for an underserved community.
“This is an answer to a call that the community has been making for a long time,” said Alice Nuttall, associate vice president of behavioral health at Lakeland Regional Health.
She said when people of Polk County are polled on what they need most, mental health services is always at the top of the list.
“Right now when they enter an emergency room and need emergency psychiatry care, they’re having to be transported out of Polk County, away from their homes, because there haven’t been enough beds,” said Nuttall.
It can take months for someone to get an appointment with a psychiatrist.
Lakeland Regional Health processes 5,000 people who are placed under the Baker Act a year, according to Nuttall.
“Those are because families and people in our community have had to call 911 because the crisis is so very acute,” she said.
Nuttall and others at Lakeland Regional Health hope the new Harrell Family Center for Behavioral Wellness will improve access for mental health patients.
“We will have many new providers and really, the addition of those providers will help address a significant need that we see here in Polk County. We know that we don’t have enough behavioral health providers for the community that we serve,” said Danielle Drummond, president & CEO of Lakeland Regional Health.
The 80,000 square foot, 96 bed facility will offer in-patient and out-patient services.
New psychiatrists, psychologists and nursing staff are being hired.
It’s being called a new chapter, with group therapy and new technology, including electroconvulsive therapy.
“[We have] transcranial magnetic stimulation that really, again, is working to treat depression and other types of diagnosis that may not be responding to medications. This we really see as the future of psychiatry,” said Drummond.
The design involves natural light and nature.
“It’s really transformational on how you view psychiatric care in that it’s beautiful, it’s nurturing, it’s therapeutic. We want to kind of leave behind that old outdated mindset of the old psychiatric wards, if you will,” said Nuttall.
The behavioral health center will open in the next few weeks.