Mental health unit at NCH Baker Hospital shuts down

Published: July 4, 2022 3:34 PM EDT
Updated: July 5, 2022 2:36 PM EDT

The NCH Baker Hospital shut down its mental health unit on Friday, leaving the David Lawrence Center to pick up the slack. By closing the door on its mental health inpatient unit, NCH is getting out of the in-house therapy business.

This means the hospital will only admit Baker Acts if they arrive with an accompanying medical issue. While patients suffering from anxiety or depression will be treated on an outpatient basis only.

Mental health
NCH closes mental health unity. (CREDIT: WINK News)

“So we are eliminating our 12 Bed inpatient program,” by doing this, NCH President and CEO Paul Hiltz said it would allow the hospital to focus on other areas.

“We’ve got one of the fastest-growing heart programs in the state of Florida,” Hiltz said. “And we’re doing a lot more stroke care here. Those patients will need space for those acute care patients.”

“Rarely, we were not at capacity,” NCH Chief Nursing Executive Gina Teegarden said. “One time this entire past year, our average census was four to five patients.”

But, at the David Lawrence Center, the mission is to provide behavioral health care to anyone who needs it.

“We already have, you know, hundreds of individuals each year that are needing to be transferred out of Collier County, because there’s not enough capacity within the county,” Scott Burgess the President, and CEO of the David Lawrence Center said. “And that was before NCH with the reduction in beds.”

Mental Health
David Lawrence Center picks up the slack from NCH closing its mental health unit. (CREDIT: WINK News)

When David Lawrence is at max capacity some patients end up in Lee, Charlotte, and even Sarasota County.

“The pandemic has really exacerbated the psychological toll that people are going through…” Burgess said. “So we’re trying to increase that capacity as quickly as we possibly can.”

Burgess hopes to have an additional 15 beds ready to go as soon as possible. DLC is also working with Collier County to build a new facility that will increase capacity from 45 to 130 beds. That should be done in the next two years.