Lakeland Regional Health is hoping to move quickly on a new behavioral health facility just south of the main hospital campus, expanding and centralizing services it says are integral to the mental health of the community.

“This is something that is so mission-based,” LRH Vice President of External Affairs Michael Spake told LkldNow today, “and it really tells who we are.”

“This project is not just about behavioral health, but it’s about us coming together to also address all of the interrelated social issues such as homelessness and substance abuse, which burden so many of our social agencies such as foster care and the justice system,” Spake added in a followup. 

The health facility would be located just east of Henley Field on property that was once part of the city’s Adair Park.

The tentative site plan for the new facility (seen at the end of this article) shows a row of parallel, single-story buildings connected with walkways and courtyards between each building. The design of the facility is intended to create the most natural light to create a therapeutic environment, Spake said. 

“We’ve gone and talked to designers to establish the best practices” of behavioral health facility design, Spake said, ensuring patient privacy and “a much more nurturing space” than the often penetentiary-esque spaces found across the mental health landscape. 

In total, the new facility will have almost 80,000 square feet of space, adding to the hospitals approximately 1.55 million square feet of space on the Lakeland Regional Health campus. The facility will host in-patient services with 96 beds and other out-patient services, expanding by 28 the number of beds currently available for behavioral health at Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center. 

The new facility will provide a more comprehensive and complete continuum of care, Spake said, with an eye to the roughly 5,400 patients brought to the hospital under temporary involuntary commitment — that is, the Baker Act — who get treated for the emergency issues and then are often sent to other providers for medium-term care and follow up — with spotty results.

So instead, the facility will be designed to have varying followup care methods available on site, like partial-day services, addiction treatment and psychotherapy.

“Essentially, we want to put that all into one place,” Spake said. 

Courtyards and walkways connect the three single-story buildings.
Interiors make use of natural lighting

The Center for Behavioral Health & Wellness will focus on several areas of service, according to a news release:
• Emergency stabilization
• Adult inpatient care
• Substance abuse disorders
• Memory disorders
• Child and adolescent inpatient services
• Adult outpatient care
• Child and adolescent outpatient care
• Family behavioral health and wellness
• Non-residential intensive behavioral health programs

The expansion of services has been championed by LRH’s 13-member board of directors who are all community members concerned with residents’ wellbeing and the central role the not-for-profit healthcare organization plays, Spake said.

“At a time when many hospitals are divesting their responsibility to care for community members challenged with behavioral health needs, we are placing the needs of our community we proudly serve over profits lifting up those individuals and families in need and working together with our city commission and management to make life the best it can be in Lakeland,” Spake said.

As part of the centralization of services, the hospital will be freeing up 68 beds in the hospital now used for behavioral health, according to LRH’s application to the city’s Planning and Zoning Board. 

This is in line with the hospital group’s ongoing efforts to create more single-occupancy rooms to increase patient privacy and reduce infection vectors. 


LRH is eager to get moving on this project, lawyer Bart Allen said Tuesday. Allen is with Peterson & Myers and is representing the hospital on its request to change the property’s land use from recreation to hospital and related medical facilities.

“We want to see this building built as soon as possible,” he told the city’s Planning and Zoning Board Tuesday.

If it goes according to plan, LRH hopes to have the surrounding zoning and planning issues before the Lakeland City Commission for a final vote on Jan. 21, Allen said.

City commissioners support project

The necessary city approvals are not expected to hit snags, and commissioners have already expressed support for the plan.

“Behavioral healthcare needs are growing at a dramatic rate,” Mayor Bill Mutz said in a statement. “The demand is far greater than just a decade ago. The city of Lakeland and Lakeland Regional Health partnership will provide progressive care and the capacity to meet these critical needs.”

Commissioner Scott Franklin also celebrated the plan and the city’s relationship with the healthcare group.

“Our society has traditionally underinvested in behavioral health resources, so it’s fantastic to see Lakeland Regional Health take a proactive approach to address the need in our community,” Franklin said in a statement.

Tentative site plan:

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