In the last year, the CDC has recorded a 28 percent increase in the use of the Baker Act in Florida—the involuntary admission of patients to psychiatric facilities as a result of being a threat to themselves or others. The CDC also predicts at least 50 percent of the U.S. population will be afflicted with mental health challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
With a rise in need for support, Sarasota Memorial Hospital is hoping to aid those who are suffering at its new behavioral healthcare pavilion, slated to be complete in October 2023. The new facility will replace the hospital's old Bayside Center for Behavioral Health. Demolition of the old east wing began on Wednesday, June 9. According to Sarasota Memorial's Behavioral Health executive director Terry Cassidy, construction will formally begin late this summer or early fall.
Plans for the $65 million facility were approved by the Sarasota County Public Hospital Board in August 2020. The new building is replacing the 1960s-era Bayside Center for Behavioral Health, located across the street from the new building's site.
"The facility we currently have has presented a challenge when treating people," says Cassidy. "It does not promote the recovery model we are aiming for; however, our staff has been outstanding at what they do, despite these challenges."
The new 96,000-square-foot building will house inpatient and outpatient services for those suffering from mental illnesses such as mood disorders, psychotic disorders, PTSD, trauma and more. Inpatient care will be for those in imminent risk or who are in need of assistance regulating medication. Everyone from children to geriatric patients will be admitted.
"Inpatient stay length will be about five to eight days," says Cassidy. "Then the staff will work with patients on the outpatient level, where they will receive therapy and guidance back into their lives and routine."
The pavilion will have 82 beds, 21 more than the old building's 61. Twenty-two will be adult beds, 20 will be acute beds for people who are very ill, 18 will be geriatric beds and 22 will be child and adolescent beds. The rooms will be separated by age groups, and single rooms will be available. The first floor of the building will be for outpatient therapies, admission services, nutrition and pharmacy resources.
Insurance will cover the costs of both voluntary and involuntary patients if they meet the medical need, Cassidy says. A 24-hour assessment center in the pavilion will determine that; if they do not, they'll be referred to outpatient therapists on staff.
Cassidy knows that Sarasotans often travel out of town to seek facilities that are not so daunting, but she's hoping to change that with the resources, and top-notch staff, already offered and slated to be offered at the pavilion.
"Often when patients are discharged from inpatient facilities, they face challenges of getting the next level of care," says Cassidy. "There is usually anxiety that comes with stepping down, but once patients are ready to leave, therapists will be directing them toward the counseling programs right within the building.
"Building rapport about these services and making people comfortable will ultimately help prevent relapse," she says.