Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Construction stalled — but not stopped — on local Vincent House

When the backers of a local Vincent House received a $250,000 state grant last spring, they had a definite plan for the money:

Start construction on the facility, which is designed to provide programs for mentally ill residents that mirror those available at the original Vincent House in Largo.

But soon after the funds arrived in July, it became clear that spending it was not possible. The money can't be used to build the local version of a Vincent House — to be called Vincent Academy — just to operate it.

"We can't use it for those purposes," said state Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, who helped secure the money during last spring's legislative session.

"But we have language so we can use it for services."

Simpson and David Lambert, the board chairman of the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said they learned about this situation from Pinellas-Pasco Public Defender Bob Dillinger, whose office received the grant and who is a founding board member of the original Pinellas County-based operation in 2001.

Dillinger said the restrictions in use came when the funding was switched to his office from its original destination, the state Department of Children and Families.

But the news isn't all bad, Lambert and Simpson said: Because the money can't be used for construction, it will instead be available to fast-track services.

"This is a blessing in disguise," Lambert said.

At a December meeting, the NAMI board agreed to rent temporary office space for Vincent Academy on U.S. 19. Some of the state money will pay to start assembling a staff for the fledgling local organization, which will be affiliated with the original, but operated separately, to serve residents of Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties.

And beginning in February, the grant will pay for residents to travel to the original Vincent House to access services.

The facility serves as a refuge for residents suffering from depression, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. It offers support groups, counseling and teaches work skills with the goal of helping mentally ill residents return to or enter the labor force.

Vincent House founders Elliott and Diane Steele came out of retirement to guide the formation of the local operation.

"They are looking at renting a home in Hernando County to get it off the ground," Lambert said.

The other good news, Simpson said: He and state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, a Spring Hill Republican, are committed to securing $1 million during this year's legislative session to start building the facility, planned for a 7.7-acre site on Forest Oaks Boulevard previously donated by Hernando County.

The state construction funds will be matched with at least $700,000 in private local money, the raising of which has strong momentum, Lambert said.

About $100,000 has already been raised, he said, not including in-kind donations from a Tampa architect and Coastal Engineering Associates of Brooksville. Obviously, Lambert said, more contributions are necessary.

"We need donors," Lambert said.

Simpson said he also hopes to secure additional state money in future years to operate the facility.

One reason for the support, Lambert said, is the widespread recognition that the facility is needed in Hernando.

Per-capita spending on services for mentally ill residents in the county ranks near the bottom of Florida counties, and the rate of spending on such services by the state is among the lowest in the country, he said.

"The bottom line is that this is desperately needed by the families in Pasco and Hernando counties," he said.

To see their struggles, he said, "is just tragic," while witnessing the progress made by clients of the original Vincent House shows how much a local facility can help.

"I'll tell you what, it warms your heart," he said.

Contact Dan DeWitt at ddewitt@tampabay.com; follow @ddewitttimes.

Construction stalled — but not stopped — on local Vincent House 01/05/17 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 4, 2017 12:55pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa Repertory's 'Flying' soars in some places, sputters in others

    Stage

    TAMPA — Tampa Repertory Theatre has always insisted on putting on plays that mean something. Several shows over the last couple of years have zeroed in on the social and cultural baggage that comes with being female (The Children's Hour, Silent Sky and Grounded come to mind). None of those …

    The Southeastern premiere of Flying, Sheila Cowley's play at Tampa Repertory Theatre about veterans of the Women's Air Force Service Pilots, includes (from left) Holly Marie Weber, Rosemary Orlando, and Becca McCoy. Photo by Megan Lamasney.
  2. Bucs-Vikings: What could make Tampa Bay's defense elite again

    Bucs

    TAMPA — The last time the Bucs had a top-five defense also happens to be when they last appeared in the postseason.

    Bucs outside linebacker Lavonte David (54) celebrates after recovering a fumble by Chicago Bears quarterback Mike Glennon (8) during the first half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  3. Top 5 at noon: Detours, delays on I-75 in Pasco; last call for New World Brewery; and more

    News

    Here are the latest headlines and updates on tampabay.com.

    Road crews clean up a mess of crash debris - and pumpkins - left behind after a fiery semitrailer truck crash on Interstate 75 in Pasco County on Sept. 22, 2017. [Florida Highway Patrol]
  4. Trumps travel ban to be replaced by restrictions tailored to certain countries

    Nation

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's ban on travelers from six majority-Muslim countries is set to be replaced as soon as this weekend with more targeted restrictions on visits to the United States that would vary by country, the New York Times reports, citing officials familiar with the plans.

    President Donald Trump's ban on travelers from six majority-Muslim countries is set to be replaced as soon as this weekend with more targeted restrictions on visits to the United States that would vary by country, officials familiar with the plans said Friday. The new restrictions, aimed at preventing security threats from entering the United States, could go into effect Sunday after the conclusion of a 90-day policy review undertaken as part of the administration's original travel ban. Though the restrictions would differ for each country, people living in the targeted nations could be prevented from traveling to the United States or could face increased scrutiny as they seek to obtain a visa. [Associated Press]
  5. New World Brewery is closing. Where will all its concerts go now?

    Blogs

    Ever since it was announced that New World Brewery was closing its beloved Ybor City location and relocating to a spot farther north, there’s been an outpouring of nostalgia from artists, promoters and fans throughout the Tampa Bay music scene.

    Allison Weiss performed at New World Brewery in 2015.