BROOKSVILLE — The longtime dream of a center to assist local residents in need of mental health support services moved a step closer to reality this week when the Henando County Commission agreed to give 7.7 acres to the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
The property, on Forest Oaks Boulevard, is near the Hernando County Health Department. The land was valued at $200,000, and the local NAMI chapter offered $8,000 for the site in order to build the county's first Vincent House.
But once commissioners started to talk about the purpose of the facility, even Commissioner Nick Nicholson, who had expressed concern about giving away such a valuable asset, agreed that the donation — free of charge — was the right thing to do.
The site most recently had housed a decommissioned wastewater treatment plant, known as the Berkeley Manor wastewater treatment plant. All of the equipment had been removed some time ago.
The location for the facility is perfect, said Commissioner Diane Rowden. Next to the Health Department, near county offices and on a public transit route, it will allow those who need services to access them, she said.
NAMI Hernando Inc. had been talking to county officials about finding a place for a Vincent House for months. During last year's session of the Florida Legislature, NAMI received $250,000 to kick off the fundraising to make the Hernando facility a reality. More fundraising is planned; the overall cost of the facility will likely top $1 million.
It will be a facility modeled after one that opened 13 years ago in Pinellas Park. It would provide a refuge for residents suffering from depression, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Support groups and counselors would meet there with patients in need of services.
Skills could also be taught to help people work their way back into the workforce.
"You know that 80 percent of the people with mental health are unemployed,'' Rowden said. "But they are employable.''
Original plans call for a 7,000-square-foot building with 2,000 square feet for NAMI offices and 5,000 for the Vincent House.
Contact Barbara Behrendt at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.