LAND O'LAKES — Children and teens needing long-term psychiatric care will no longer have to be sent outside Pasco for treatment.
Morton Plant North Bay Hospital announced it will open a 10-bed in-patient facility for children and youth ages 5 to 17 at a 45,000-square-foot building on State Road 54 that now houses Gulf and Lake Academy, a state program for non-violent juvenile offenders.
"As you can imagine, having a child who needs this type of treatment is hard," said Beth Hardy, spokeswoman for Morton Plant. "But having to travel puts an extra burden on parents."
Hardy said the closest facility for children needing hospital-based mental health care is at Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater, although shorter-term care is offered locally.
The hospital plans to renovate the State Road 54 facility with the goal to open it by spring or summer of 2010.
Hardy said some jobs might be created but had no specific information.
The hospital plans to use services and infrastructure already available within Morton Plant North Bay Hospital's main campus operations as well as the clinical expertise and resources of BayCare Health System and BayCare Behavioral Health, which also operates Harbor Behavioral Health, she said.
The move to open the children's hospital follows a circuitous route that started in 2008. The original application for the Morton Plant North Bay Psychiatric Facility called for 70 beds, with 60 for adults and 10 child/adolescent inpatient psychiatric beds.
However, the state denied the application and approved a competing plan, which did not specify any plans for children's beds. North Bay then challenged the state agency's earlier denial of its application.
North Bay also was contesting the state's related decision to approve a rival plan by Ten Broeck Tampa to build a 40-bed psychiatric and substance abuse hospital for adults near Bruce B. Downs Boulevard in Pasco County.
As part of a settlement reached last year, North Bay agreed to drop those challenges in exchange for permission to build the children's hospital. That paved the way for Ten Broeck, an affiliate of privately held United Medical Corp. of Windermere, to pursue its plans.
Gulf and Lake Academy, which serves 46 girls and 45 boys ranging from 12 to 18 years old, will move to two new locations, said Kerry Knott, chief executive officer of G4S Youth Services LLC, the parent company of Gulf and Lake. The Palm Beach firm acquired Gulf and Lake from Sunshine Youth Services in April. Knott wouldn't disclose where the new programs would be offered but said the staff would be offered jobs there or at other G4S facilities.
The facility on State Road 54 was a Charter hospital that closed in January 2000 when the last patients, several dozen female juvenile offenders, were transferred to a mental health center in Largo. It was reopened by two former Charter executives who said they quit the company because they were tired of closing hospitals. Several months later, the new company, called Sunshine Youth Services, got a contract with the state Department of Juvenile Justice to house 69 non-violent misdemeanor juvenile offenders ranging in age from 13 to 18 at its center, which includes a gymnasium, classrooms, an in-ground swimming pool and separate wings for boys and girls.
Lisa Buie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4604.