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SalusCare’s 10th Anniversary

SalusCare’s 10th Anniversary celebrates the merger between Southwest Florida Addiction Services and Lee Mental Health. 

Because believing one agency would better serve the community, two long-standing mental and behavioral health agencies combined. Southwest Florida Addiction Services and Lee Mental Health, merged in 2013. As a result, the combination created the largest nonprofit mental health and substance abuse treatment agency in Southwest Florida. 

SalusCare was named for Latin roots of “Salus,” (pronounced “Sail-us”) meaning health, prosperity and safety. Ten years later, SalusCare continues to reflect that focus, while moving forward to meet the needs of the community. 

SalusCare Today 

Today, SalusCare employs more than 300 people who bring hope and recovery to nearly 16,000 adults and children. Services include outpatient psychiatry and therapy, residential programs, recovery residences, emergency/crisis services, detox and community-based services. These are provided from six locations in Lee County, improving care for children and adults. 

“We offer the full continuum of behavioral health services,” says Stacey Cook. Cook had been with Lee Mental Health for 18 years before becoming the CEO of Salus Care in 2016. “It’s a huge win for the community to have all services truly connected.” 

In addition, the merger recognized the growing awareness that mental and behavioral health and addiction were often related. “It has allowed us to become well-rounded with cross-training that has helped us enhance care,” says Michelle Sutherland. Sutherland had been with Southwest Florida Addition Services for 18 years. She has served as SalusCare’s executive administrator and director of outsourced operations since 2020. “Everyone is able to share in patient care holistically, and it has allowed our staff to learn and grow.”

SalusCare’s 10th Anniversary Benefits

Combining the organizations has allowed SalusCare to better manage staffing, changes in regulations and demand for services. Leadership changes at SalusCare since it was formed have resulted in a primarily female leadership team. 

“We work together with creativity and deep level thinking that is both present and future,” Cook says. “Women emote compassion and empathy deeply, which is important now more than ever. We are creating an environment that is healing, and women are great at that, without minimizing power and authority.” 

Also, SalusCare has promoted a culture of transparency. Another goal is to help staff understand the big picture, as well as having a role in decision-making. Think-tanks are created to address problems, drawing employees of all levels to brainstorm solutions. “If all the big decisions and big thinking is done at the top, employees feel disconnected and not invested,” Cook says. “We are investing in the collective to get people involved organizationally.” 

Beyond SalusCare’s 10th Anniversary 

While noting SalusCare’s 10th Anniversary, the leadership team is working to address the growing need for mental, behavioral and addiction services. Issues have been on the rise in the past few years. Cook says she expects to triple in the next five to 10 years. 

Strategic planning currently underway includes envisioning ways to reduce the physical footprint by embracing technology. “With technology and telehealth, there are ways to better use resources and expand our reach,” Cook says. This year, texting for appointments was added. 

Going forward, SalusCare wants to remain agile and at the forefront of promising treatments. One includes transcranial magnetic stimulation. This non-invasive treatment uses magnetic pulses to stimulate nerve cells in the brain associated with major depression. “It has been found to work where traditional medicine has not,” Cook says. 

At the Crisis Stabilization Unit, some of the area’s most urgent and severe mental health crises are treated. The team has been working with data and training to reduce the use of seclusion and restraint. “These techniques are highly traumatizing for the patients and the staff,” Sutherland says. “We are working on talking and forming relationships. By doing so, we have seen decreases in injuries and increases in patient and staff satisfaction.” 

How to Give or Get Help 

SalusCare is licensed and partially funded in part through contracts by the Florida Department of Children and Families through the Central Florida Behavioral Health Network, Lee County, third-party payers, insurance, patient fees, donations and as a United Way partner agency. To donate to support SalusCare’s mental and behavioral health programs, click here.  

All substance abuse programs and most mental health services are accredited by CARF International, an independent, nonprofit accreditor of health and human services. Click here to get help. 

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Fort Myers, FL 33901
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