By Bud Stephens
Construction on the new Behavioral Health Center at Lehigh Regional Medical Center continues to be on schedule for completion in early December and for opening prior to the end of the year. According to Gary Bell, CEO of Lehigh Regional Medical Center, work on the 35 bed inpatient behavioral health center continues at a furious pace so that they can reach their goal for opening.
Mr. Bell shared that, “When you are building a medical facility, especially an inpatient unit, it is a unique process. Most people don’t realize all that is required. There are several government agencies who have to sign off on each stage of each component in the facility.” He went on to explain that, when each stage of completion is reached, they must wait for the various agencies to inspect and approve the work before they can move forward. Federal, state and local agencies or departments are involved in the approval process. “The representatives from some agencies are involved with projects all over the state or beyond. They aren’t necessarily to blame for the delays. There are only 24 hours in a day and they do what they can.”He continued, “We are still on schedule for the completion date we anticipated”.
Lehigh Regional’s Behavioral Health Center will be a 35 bed inpatient facility designed to provide care for those fifty-five years old and older. Considering the shortage of inpatient Behavioral Health treatment available in the area, it is a welcome and much needed addition to what is an already strained system.
When asked about the space devoted to the new unit, Mr. Bell replies, “ We have devoted an entire floor of our hospital to this need. These 35 beds will provide treatment for a segment of our population that many people don’t think of when they think Behavioral Health.” He went on to say, “The need is so great that it’s like trying to “boil the ocean” but we can’t let that stop us. We are determined to help as many people as we can in our community and in the greater southwest Florida area.”
During a tour of the construction site, it was clear that Mr. Bell is proud of the new facility. “When you look at the structure of the multiple systems they really are a work of art and the people who design and build them are artists.” Of course, very few people will ever see this structural art because in the end they will be hidden behind walls, ceilings and doors. Even so, the art is there just the same.
According to Bell, substance abuse is one of many disorders that the new unit will be equipped to address. Also, whether it is abuse of illicit drugs or legal medications, substance abuse can be a symptom of underlying issues, including depression which has also risen to epidemic proportions. He adds, “Some people mistakenly believe that when they retire or are approaching retirement age, they have lost their purpose in life.
We will do our best to treat the resulting depression and then help them realize that the years after retirement offer a large number of alternatives that provide a realization of true purpose in life.”
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), substance abuse among seniors has become a serious problem. They say that the number of older Americans with Substance Abuse Disorder is anticipated to rise from 2.8 million in 2002–2006 to 5.7 million by 2020. Because so many cases of substance abuse go unreported, these numbers reflect the tip of the iceberg.
As the tour ended, Bell said, “When a patient is discharged from our hospital, especially from the Behavioral Health Unit, our job isn’t finished. Every patient is part of the continuum of care process. At the time of admission, we assign a Case Manager to each Patient. Plans for the appropriate care setting are made by the Case Manager and the Case Manager will continue to oversee the patient’s care even after they have been discharged. Where permission is granted, the family is involved in the process. It really is a marvelous system.”
Demonstrating that commitment to the community, Jacklyn Arsenault, Director of Marketing and Public Relations at Lehigh Regional announce a special upcoming community celebration which will take place later this year. On Tuesday, December 10, 2019, Lehigh Regional will host the Annual Christmas Tree Lighting on the front lawn of the hospital. The community is invited to enjoy refreshments and entertainment and, of course, Santa arrives on a fire truck at 5:00 PM. The event runs from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM and the staff of Lehigh Regional is expecting a healthy response from the community.
As Lehigh Regional Medical Center approaches a new year and a new decade they also approach another phase in their long history of providing quality care to the people of southwest Florida. Enjoying great, forward-thinking leadership it appears that they will be a positive factor in providing quality healthcare to the people of southwest Florida for many years to come.
Lehigh Regional Medical Center is located at 1500 Lee Blvd Lehigh Acres, FL 33936 and can be found on the web at www.lehighregional.com . and they invite you to follow them on Facebook.