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One Year Is Just the Beginning for SalusCare

Published in The News-Press, August 3, 2014

By Kevin B. Lewis, CEO

SalusCare, Inc., celebrated the one year anniversary of its creation July 1.  It’s been just one year since Lee Mental Health and Southwest Florida Addiction Services merged to better serve Southwest Florida residents with mental health and substance use disorders and help them on the road to recovery.

Kevin B. Lewis, CEO SalusCare
Kevin B. Lewis, CEO
SalusCare

One year ago we told community leaders and funders that the driving force for the merger of two long-standing healthcare non-profits, Lee Mental Health and Southwest Florida Addiction Services, was to improve care for people in need of treatment, enhance efforts for prevention, and to offer improved services with greater integration with the healthcare systems in our community.

So how are we doing?  I’d like to give you our one-year report card.  In the past 12 months we have:

1)      Opened an additional Access Center in Cape Coral so that Cape Coral residents no longer need to travel to Fort Myers for initial screening.  SalusCare  began offering screenings for first-time, non-emergency patients at the Cape Coral office at the end of April.  More than 50 community leaders attended our open house to celebrate the grand opening.  In just the first four months, we have screened 308 new patients and provided treatment for 1,229  people at the Cape Coral office on Cultural Park Boulevard.  Screenings are offered for both children and adults on a walk-in basis from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday.   SalusCare now has three Access Centers, including other locations at 3763 Evans Ave. and 2789 Ortiz Ave. in Fort Myers.

2)      Integrated mental health and substance abuse outpatient teams enabling patients to receive treatment for either or both diagnoses at any of our three access centers.  This reduces travel and wait time for patients, improving their overall healthcare experience.

3)      Implemented electronic health records system-wide.  Patient healthcare records now can be accessed at any of our seven locations in Lee and Hendry counties, speeding delivery of services wherever patients are.

4)      Initiated a Community Action Team (CAT) model providing services to more than 100 young people and their families in an intensive, community-based program.  Special thanks goes to Florida Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto for spearheading the funding needed to launch this model program.

5)      Began adding Physicians’ Assistants (PAs) and Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioners (ARNPs) to increase availability of services for persons in need with reduced costs.

We treated 17,000 individuals in the past year who need our help to manage their mental illnesses and substance use disorders.

SalusCare offers a full range of outpatient and acute care services for adults and children impacted by mental illnesses, addictions or co-occurring disorders, including: assessment, outpatient medication management and therapy, case management, and acute care services at the Crisis Unit or Detoxification Center.

For individuals dealing with addictions, SalusCare offers a full range of outpatient services and residential treatment for both adults and adolescents, and halfway housing and supportive housing for adults as well.  Acute care services for both adults and adolescents are also available for individuals with more intense care needs. Among the outpatient services are assessment, outpatient treatment, intensive outpatient treatment and day treatment – offering a level of care to meet most anyone’s needs.

In addition, SalusCare offers evidence-based prevention programs in school and community settings for both adults and youth to reduce the likelihood of developing a problem.

We’ve made great strides this first year, but we still have so much more to accomplish to better serve our community.  Florida ranks 48th in the United States in per person funding for mental health.   Untreated mental health and substance use disorders don’t just go away because there is no money to provide care.  Too many people wind up in our jails or in hospital emergency rooms that are ill-equipped to treat them.

We fight the lack of understanding that mental illnesses and substance use disorders are chronic, brain-based diseases that are treatable – if individuals are able to access treatment.

That’s why we will be asking our community, our legislators, businesses and individuals like you to help us with the funding needed to close the gap and make mental health and substance use funding a top priority.

Only when we all work together can we reach the thousands of men, women and children  in our community who desperately need our help.

Kevin B. Lewis is the President and CEO of SalusCare, Inc., the region’s leading provider of treatment for mental health and substance use issues.  If you or someone you know needs help, call the SalusCare Welcome Center at 239-275-3222 or visit www.saluscareflorida.org