LAKELAND — Lakeland Regional Health is ready to unveil one of the largest investments ever made in the mental health of Polk County residents.
Lakeland Regional has completed construction on the Harrell Family Center for Behavioral Wellness, its first freestanding mental health facility. It will become a hub for nonprofit health care providers for outpatient and inpatient mental health services.
Danielle Drummond, president and CEO of Lakeland Regional Health, called the center’s grand opening the “next big step” for the nonprofit provider and surrounding areas.
“It speaks to our commitment to taking care of the community,” Drummond said. “We understand that it goes beyond just physical health, it’s well-being. We want to make sure we offer comprehensive care for the whole person, which includes our behavioral health services.”
Plans for the $46 million facility were publicly unveiled in November 2019, but construction was delayed due to the COVID pandemic. Work began in August 2020, with the official groundbreaking ceremony postponed to February 2021 due to health safety concerns.
There is no set opening date for the center, Drummond said, because Lakeland Regional Health still needs the site to pass its state inspections. She expects the services to begin rolling out in the coming weeks.
“We expect over 21,000 patients to walk through the door of the new facility in its first year of operation for all of these services,” she said.
The Ledger previewed the Harrell Family Center for Behavioral Center on Tuesday with Drummond and Alice Nuttall, LRH’s director of behavioral health services, to discuss the unique design and innovative technology incorporated into the space.
The 80,000-square-foot building is located on the south end of Lakeland Regional’s main campus at 1324 Lakeland Hills Blvd. The space allows the organization’s existing health care services at Lakeland Regional Medical Center and its remote campus to be brought together under one roof.
“This is a real game changer because it allows us to provide holistic patient care,” Drummond said.
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One of the most innovative sections of the center is the interventional psychology suite. The pre- and post-procedure area is for patients who are undergoing intensive therapies, Nuttall said, such as electroconvulsive or transcranial magnetic stimulation. These options are used for people who have tried therapy and medication without success or may be sensitive to medications, Nuttall said.
“One of the things that’s nice is that often these services are offered in a basement somewhere with no windows or lights,” she said. “The fact that we have natural light, windows and access to the outdoors is remarkable.”
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Lakeland Regional Health until now has not had a designated location for these treatments, Drummond said, limiting access to interested patients. He currently serves 10 to 13 patients on a busy day at the medical center.
“We expect to be able to double that number out of the gate here,” Drummond said.
Nuttall said the intervention suite will also provide critical space for healthcare providers to implement cutting-edge psychological therapies with adjacent private procedure rooms.
Increase stationary capacity
The center will have 96 licensed inpatient beds, an increase of 28 from the 68 beds currently set aside for mental health crises at the main medical centre. Persons admitted to inpatient services will have a private entrance around the rear of the building.
The Bill & Kathy Pou Child and Adolescent Unit will consist of 12 inpatient beds designed for youth ages 10 to 17. The remaining 84 beds are intended for adults, divided according to the severity and specificity of their diagnoses.
Inpatient rooms are evenly distributed between private and shared, double rooms. Nuttall said this is meant to offer privacy or offer to build a community of support between individuals who may be struggling with similar circumstances.
“So often we try to build a sense of community,” Nuttall said.
The space was designed with a curved nursing station, Nuttall said, allowing a full view along the length of the inpatient corridors at all times. Inpatient areas have shared common spaces for eating and where they can receive visitors as family members are invited to visit and help participate in treatment.
The various units are linked by a core where teams of psychologists, psychiatrists, nurses, social workers and others will have offices close to each other but separate from the patients. Nuttall said that by placing these specialists together, the hope is that the providers on an individual’s team can work closely together.
All units will have access to courtyards, enclosed outdoor space segregated by age and unit. Incorporating outdoor access for patients was a key component of the design.
“Multiple studies show that people need to walk and be outside,” Nuttall said. “This often helps reduce the anxiety of coming into an inpatient facility, knowing you can get out can have a calming effect.”
The dedicated children’s outdoor play area has frosted windows to preserve privacy.
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Expansion of outpatient services
The front quadrant of the center has dozens of offices and apartments dedicated to outpatient mental health services. Lakeland Regional Health provides outpatient care starting with children as young as 5 years old.
Since the rollout of telehealth services during the pandemic, Nuttall said 60 percent to 70 percent of all outpatient mental health services are done virtually. She said it provides a great deal of flexibility for providers and patients in whether to come into the office or sit down for a therapy session from the comfort of home.
Individual treatment rooms have installed technology that allows providers to more easily monitor and consult with each other, including the installation of two-way glass. Nuttall said patient consent will be required, but she hopes the open atmosphere will help train medical students who are expected to arrive on site next summer.
The additional group rooms will allow Lakeland Regional to launch and expand its outpatient offerings, Nuttall said. LRH hopes to gradually start new therapy groups for individuals who require more intensive treatment than outpatient care but do not require hospitalization.
“Until now, we haven’t had the real estate to provide this kind of service,” she said.
The space will allow for adaptive approaches, which Nuttall called partial inpatient hospitalization or intensive outpatient therapy.
Nuttall said he hopes to be able to continue adding to and improving the space because some of the latest technological innovations in mental health care have occurred in the past 18 months due to COVID.
Sarah-Megan Walsh can be reached at [email protected] or 863-802-7545. Follow on Twitter @SaraWalshFl.