Perhaps no one knows better than Al and Loralee West the challenges that lie ahead for someone battling both mental illness and substance abuse.
Years ago, when the couple's son was dealing with his own dual-disorder issues, they found themselves trapped in a maze finding adequate care and treatment for him.
Like many others, they found themselves bouncing back and forth between drug treatment facilities and psychiatric hospitals with little success.
"There really wasn't a facility that handled both problems very well," Al West recalled Tuesday. "It was a very frustrating experience for our family."
All of which prompted the Wests 10 years ago to create WestBridge, a Boston-based residential care and training facility that will serve as a model for a new treatment facility that will be going up soon at 7300 Grove Road.
The Wests, who were on hand Tuesday for the facility's ground breaking, applauded the efforts of Hernando County's mental health advocates and professionals, saying they hoped the new center will be welcomed as a vital element in treating substance abuse and psychotic disorders.
Rita Tice, a board member with the Hernando chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, praised the new center, and its attention to treating patients in a comfortable family atmosphere.
"Anyone who has been through this knows there are no easy answers," Tice said. "It's a fight, but we're saving lives one at a time."
The nearly 20,000-square-foot facility, which will be built on an 11-acre parcel north of Cortez Boulevard, will house up to 25 residents at a time. Structures on the property include a two-story residence, a pool house and an administrative office building.
WestBridge anticipates hiring 40 full- and part-time employees, with recruitment starting in mid July, according to a release. Jobs will include medical professionals, counselors, maintenance and administrative staff.
Three years ago, the county planning and zoning commission granted a special exception application to build the facility, despite concerns by neighbors about the safety of their children coming in contact with patients.
However, facility owners assured the commission that there would be no sex offenders or violent offenders, and patients will be locked in at night. In addition, a fence will surround the property and access will be through one gate.
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or [email protected]