Lakeland Regional Health has reactivated plans for a 96-bed behavioral health center on the south end of its main campus with expected completion pushed back from 2021 to 2022.

The nonprofit health organization’s board of directors voted unanimously at their August meeting “to continue the work to develop the Center for Behavioral Health & Wellness,” Public Relations Director Jennifer Audette said in a news release issued today.

Construction, which had been scheduled for April, was delayed as Lakeland Regional focused on ramping up coronavirus care pandemic and dealing with the pandemic’s financial consequences.

A temporary state-imposed moratorium on elective surgeries and outpatient procedures was coupled with reduced emergency room and physician clinic visits to reduce revenues during the spring, hospital officials said.

Last November, LRH announced it would be building the center to offer more in-patient and out-patient services for behavioral health. It would be located on property just south of the main hospital complex that used to be part of the city of Lakeland’s Adair Park.

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, 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, LRH Vice President of External Affairs Michael Spake said when plans for the facility were announced last year.

“Behavioral healthcare needs are growing at a dramatic rate,” Lakeland Mayor Bill Mutz said, according to today’s news release. “The city of Lakeland and Lakeland Regional Health partnership will provide progressive care and the capacity to meet these critical needs. Both organizations are committed to improving the quality of life in Lakeland and across Polk County.” 

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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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