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In the next few weeks, Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center’s Behavioral Health unit will leave two cramped spaces in a building that is more than 50 years old and move into a new, $46 million facility filled with natural light, artwork, special in-patient units, and multiple courtyards.
The Harrell Family Center for Behavioral Health is set to open sometime in September, with crews hanging the last pieces of artwork, making sure all equipment works, and brushing on any touch-up paint. State building inspectors are expected to sign off on occupancy of the building soon.
“This building is a significant investment in our behavioral health and wellness services, which was really in response to growing community need,” said LRHMC President and CEO Danielle Drummond. “We realized that this was a need years ago and then, coming out of the pandemic, it’s been even heightened to another degree that I don’t think any of us expected to be the case in such a short period of time.”
Drummond and Alice Nuttall, LRHMC associate vice president of behavioral health service, gave LkldNow a tour of the new building recently. Drummond said the facility, located just south of the Carol Jenkins Barnett Women and Children’s Pavilion, expands the medical center’s capabilities.
Nuttall said they are offering outpatient group therapy, including intensive outpatient, partial hospitalization, various community programs, group services for inpatient and telehealth medicine for those who can’t travel to the facility.
Between 250 to 275 people will work at the behavioral health center, including psychiatrists, psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, nurse practitioners, specialty fellowships training in psychiatry, case managers and nurses.
“We have a wonderful residency program here at Lakeland Regional Health and we’re hiring new nurses in and training them specifically to be prepared for behavioral health,” Nuttall said. “So it’s a multidisciplinary team. It’s not just one type of professional.”
A 2021 report from Polk Vision showed a pressing need for more providers in Polk County.
The ratio of the population to mental health providers in Polk is 1,190 to 1. Florida is 670 to 1. The national benchmark is 310 to 1.
“The lack of sufficient providers to meet the growing need in Polk County has great impact on our community’s mental health, quality of life, economy, growth and development,” the Polk Vision report states. Nuttall was a co-author of the report.
Out of 41 needs detailed in the report’s strategic objectives, providing more psychiatrists or psychologists and making mental health care more accessible were at the top of the list.
Of the people questioned for the survey, 11% said they needed mental health care in the previous 12 months, but did not receive it.
Read LkldNow reporter Kimberly Moore’s award-winning series on mental health
Nuttall said LRHMC is currently licensed for 68 inpatient beds on the seventh and first floors of the hospital. The new behavioral health center has 96 beds – eight units with 12 beds each, including a 12-bed unit for juveniles as young as 10 years old.
“Danielle and I are both really proud of … our graduate medical education initiatives here at Lakeland Regional, and this building incorporates space to be able to house and train psychiatry residents,” Nuttall said. “That is making a huge impact in our community in bringing additional behavioral health providers, which we all know is an essential part a really moving the needle on community health needs.”
The 80,000-square-foot building has everything you would expect from a facility for mental health patients – in-patient rooms, group therapy spaces, and out-patient treatment areas. But Nuttall and the architects went one step beyond that, consulting with psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses and staff to see what they felt was important.
Input from Dr. Patricia Landreth helped to redesign the nurses’ station. Instead of a station flush with the wall, it juts out into the corridor enough to give nurses a full view of the entire hallway behind a clear acrylic partition.
“There are no blind spots,” Nuttall said. “That has been one example of thousands where we got direct feedback from both providers, nurses, people like myself and my other partners that have been doing behavioral health for a long time. That’s a dream come true because we were able to really help.”
In addition, staff, including custodial workers, maintenance crews, food service personnel, nurses and doctors, will utilize a separate hallway to enter and exit the unit, leaving the main corridor free for patients and medical staff.
There are lights above bathroom doors alerting staff that someone is inside. And special door hinges are used so patients can’t lock themselves in bathrooms or in their rooms.
“The bathrooms — actually the door exits to the corridor instead of inside bathroom, the way an average hotel or medical room may,” Nutall said. “That’s because we know that a lot of our safety events happen in the bathroom and that’s one of our risk points. So, by our staff being kind of aware when patients come into the bathroom, it’s just that much safer for patients … Some of this is above and beyond because we really want it to be the best in class. Truly world class.”
There is also an interventional psychiatry suite, which houses an area for electric convulsive treatment and transcranial magnetic stimulation. Both are used to treat depression or mood disorders when medications and/or talk therapy have not worked, when the side effects become excessive, or when a patient can’t tolerate medicine for a long period of time. Both ECT and TMS are done under the care of a doctor.
“ECT is an additional type of service where anesthesia is actually involved and you go to sleep during that treatment,” Nuttall said. “Essentially, they’re hitting reboot, if you will, kind of as you would with your computer and it helps quickly rebalance the neuro-chemicals and things in your brain that may be contributing to depression or mood disorder.
Patients utilize this treatment three times a week in the beginning. They are put under anesthesia and then wake up in a recovery area. Treatments last for several weeks and taper off toward the end.
“We’ve just found remarkable improvement for patients whose lives have otherwise you know, not been able to get back to work or school and things of that nature,” Nuttall said.
TMS involves treatment almost every day for about a month.
“You sit in a chair and it’s actually using magnetic technology and that actually helps impact very specifically the area of your brain that the depression is or emanating from,” she said.
The Mayo Clinic describes a treatment that uses transcranial magnetic stimulation as a noninvasive form of brain stimulation in which a changing magnetic field is used to cause electric current in a specific area of the brain.
Nuttall is also particularly proud of all the windows bringing in natural light and the courtyard gardens in between units that patients can utilize for meals, group therapy, exercise or just to sit and rest under the mid-century modern style picnic areas, complete with an angled canopy over a table and benches.
“Those types of things are so helpful when you may be addressing difficult topics or, when doing therapy sessions, to then be able to have a breather outside is so nice,” Nuttall said.
A room specifically designed for court hearings is also onsite. It will allow the magistrate to meet with a patient, along with any family member they choose to have with them, their physician, a bailiff, a court reporter, a public defender, a guardian advocate, and the state’s attorney for the Wednesday morning hearings.
“I’m very proud of Polk County — in general, our court system does an exceptional job with how they manage and run Baker Act Court,” Nutall said. “They really listen to the patients, even if they know that that person will be given a two-week continuance because of the nature of their admission, the magistrates still lets them talk. They really hear them and then they talk directly to them vs. you know, the other people in the room, as well. So it’s really done very nicely here.”
They also have recreation space that functions like a gym where they plan to have yoga and stretching classes, along with games.
“That type of having fun and moving your body physically, helping you get centered again in your physical body, it’s really helpful for emotional health, as well,” Nuttall said.
Artwork lines the hallways and hang in various treatment and inpatient rooms from area artists like Marian Fox, Laurie Perry, Kristy Ollis, Duane Lipham, Marta Tollerup, and Carol Bradley.
As for Drummond and Nuttall, the two accomplished women were grateful for each other’s support and encouragement throughout this years-long process of fundraising, design, planning and construction.
“Obviously, we’re very appreciative of Alice’s leadership to help bring all this together while still running the current operations,” Drummond said.
She added that they are also thankful for the community’s support, including donations that came with the naming of rooms for a families. And, Drummond said, she is thankful to be able to have open conversations about mental health the way people would about any other health condition.
“I think this building will not only touch the lives of those that walk through these doors, but it’s also going to help to break that stigma so that people will be more comfortable having conversations that this is a condition that really needs to be talked about, like any other health issue you might be facing,” Drummond said. “And it’s okay to talk about it. It’s okay to get help. It’s okay to reach out if you’re feeling like there’s something out there that might be beneficial to you.”
Kimberly C. Moore is an award-winning reporter and a Lakeland native. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 863-272-9250.
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