Mental Health Needs Exploding: Collier Treatment Center Plans Expansions

In a bid to address the growing demand for mental health services, the David Lawrence Center, a nonprofit mental health organization, is embarking on new building projects and staff recruitment initiatives to improve access to...

In a bid to address the growing demand for mental health services, the David Lawrence Center, a nonprofit mental health organization, is embarking on new building projects and staff recruitment initiatives to improve access to care. What's more, they have recently received an unprecedented $10 million gift, the largest ever, to build a children's center with 30 crisis beds, effectively doubling their capacity.

The generous donation comes from the Bill and Julia Van Domelen Foundation, a philanthropic organization with strong ties to Collier County. This contribution couldn't have come at a better time, as Florida historically ranks 46th among states for access to mental health care, and Collier County specifically faces additional challenges such as rapid growth, post-hurricane recovery, and a lack of affordable housing.

The community in Collier County is not immune to the nationwide opioid epidemic and the rising number of suicides, which reached an all-time high of nearly 16 suicides per 100,000 population in 2020, exceeding the state suicide rate. These alarming statistics emphasize the urgent need for enhanced mental health services in the area.

Scott Burgess, the CEO of David Lawrence Center, acknowledges the pressing need for proactive measures in addressing these issues. He states, "We know we have to try and get ahead of these things as much as we can. It's a real comprehensive approach to meet the needs of the community in a lot of different ways."

To realize their expansion plans, David Lawrence Center aims to raise up to $70 million. As the dominant provider of mental health care in the community, the center currently serves 9,000 patients at six locations, offering more than 40 inpatient and outpatient programs and providing over 340,000 treatment services.

What about the County-Owned Center?

It's essential to note that the new initiatives by David Lawrence Center are separate from an 87-bed treatment center being built by the county next to the David Lawrence campus. The county initially planned for 102 beds, but the ongoing project will provide crucial additional resources for mental health care.

The five-acre site on which the county-owned center is being built is owned by David Lawrence, and in exchange for donating the land, they have secured a long-term contract to oversee the new center's operations. While the location faced opposition from residential neighbors, the Collier County Commission approved the project last February, and it is currently in the design stages.

Funding for the 60,000-square-foot central receiving facility is derived from the proceeds of a one-cent sales tax surcharge approved by local voters in 2018. However, due to labor shortages and escalating material costs, the original price tag of $25 million has now risen to $44 million. Groundbreaking for the project is anticipated to take place later this year.

What Are the New Projects?

In addition to the county-owned center, the David Lawrence board has approved two new buildings on the existing campus and initiated a recruitment and retention program for mental health professionals. These expansions do not require any zoning changes and will significantly enhance the center's ability to meet the needs of the community.

The first project involves demolishing the oldest building on the campus, currently housing administrative offices, to make way for a two-story, 13,500-square-foot complex. This new facility will provide urgent care, assessments, outpatient drug treatment, and other essential services.

The second project entails replacing modular buildings used for children's programs with a two-story, 25,000-square-foot building. This new structure will house all services for children under one roof, including a 30-bed crisis stabilization unit that will effectively double the number of crisis beds available for children.

It is worth mentioning that the $10 million gift from the Bill and Julia Van Domelen Foundation will be utilized for this specific project, further highlighting the significant impact it will have on expanding mental health services in the community.

Supporting Workforce Development

Recognizing the need for a well-trained and supported workforce, the center aims to bolster workforce development for clinical supervision and provide training opportunities for nurses, counselors, and social work interns. To achieve this, they are launching a recruitment and retention program that offers financial assistance, competitive benefits, and continuing education for behavioral health professionals at all levels.

Currently employing 400 individuals, the center anticipates the need to expand its workforce by adding around 100 more staff members as the new projects are completed.

Furthermore, in an effort to support individuals in recovery, David Lawrence Center plans to construct a second transitional residence, similar to Hope Home, to accommodate those in need. This new group home will feature 24 single-occupancy rooms, including two for residents fulfilling roles similar to residential advisers. Costing approximately $6 million, the project has secured full funding from a donor and the state.

The tireless efforts of the David Lawrence Center, coupled with the generous contributions and support from donors, are paving the way for a brighter future in mental health care in Collier County. By addressing the pressing needs of the community and expanding their services, they are making significant strides in improving access to care and providing hope for individuals who are struggling with mental health issues.

Scott Burgess, David Lawrence Centers President and CEO, speaks during a ceremony announcing a partnership between Home Base Florida and David Lawrence Centers, Thursday, April 7, 2022, at David Lawrence Centers in Naples, Fla. The new outpatient mental health services are for veterans, service members, and military families impacted by the invisible wounds of war. Caption: Scott Burgess, David Lawrence Centers President and CEO, speaks during a ceremony announcing a partnership between Home Base Florida and David Lawrence Centers, Thursday, April 7, 2022, at David Lawrence Centers in Naples, Fla. The new outpatient mental health services are for veterans, service members, and military families impacted by the invisible wounds of war.

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