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Mental health services expand in Lee

August 14, 2019
By KATIE EGAN ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

The Lehigh Regional Medical Center will open a 35-bed behavioral care unit in the beginning of December for patients 55 and older. Services will focus on geropsychiatry, an area of medicine that addresses the unique physical and emotional needs for older adults.

Some other services the 18,000-square-foot unit will provide include recreational therapy assessment and treatment, individual therapy, group therapy, art recreation, education for patients and families on diagnosis, treatment options and assistance with discharge planning and financial issues.

CEO of Lehigh Regional Medical Center, Gary Bell, said the unit will be ready to accept patients as soon as it opens its doors. The center will take Medicare, Medicaid and commercial payer insurance.

The behavioral unit will not just benefit patients in Lehigh Acres and Lee County. Services will be available to patients from Collier County to the south; Sarasota to the north, and Hendry County to the east.

Bell says the $4- to $4.5 million behavioral unit is being built at a pivotal time.

"Everyone wants to come to our beautiful part of the world to retire," he said. "It will continue to be that way. Southwest Florida has a significant aging population, second only I think to the Sarasota area, so there's a huge need."

Bell used depression as an example.

"There is a lot of depression in the older population," he said. "We certainly want to help with that along with other behavioral health issues.

"There's no stigma," Bell said. "It's just another medical condition. It can be any of us."

While patients are being treated in the center, they will still receive treatment and care for other health issues.

For example, the center still will monitor cholesterol issues, blood pressure and make sure patients take any necessary medication.

"As people age, they may have a condition they take medication for that has to be monitored by a physician," Bell said. "But all of that will be continued while they are here. Medical issues are being addressed while we treat behavioral issues."

Bell says the behavioral unit is much needed since there are not many units like it in the area.

"I believe even with the other providers in the area, the area is underserved," he said. "These beds are certainly needed and we are glad to be providing this service.

"There is a good unit at a physiatrist hospital in Fort Myers and a small unit in Naples. This is a distinct unit that's really needed in Southwest Florida."

Bell says the behavioral unit is just the first step for Lehigh Regional Medical Center.

"The Southwest Florida population is expanding. More people are coming. Over time, we'll probably add two more stories to the hospital."



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