BayCare Health System is expanding its services for those struggling with mental health issues and addiction over the next few years, through increased inpatient beds and additional psychiatrists and therapists on its team, the hospital system announced Thursday.
By the end of the year, it plans to add 20 behavioral health providers to its team, with a total of 65 mental health professionals joining over the next three years. BayCare also plans to add 24 inpatient beds by 2022.
“BayCare committed itself to addressing behavioral health needs in our community even before the pandemic, and we will sustain this commitment after,” BayCare Board Chairman Rick Colón said in a news release. “We hope by taking this step we will encourage other providers to join us in providing more access to behavioral health services for our entire community.”
BayCare’s 2019 Community Health Needs Assessments highlighted the need for more behavioral health services in the Tampa Bay region. The healthcare system’s board also made the decision to expand services based on a national consultant’s analysis of mental health providers in west central Florida, finding 200 additional outpatient providers were needed in Tampa Bay, according to the release.
The increased services are particularly aimed at underserved areas in the Tampa Bay region, including Plant City, the Brandon area, Winter Haven in Polk County, Hernando County and parts of New Port Richey.
“It’s our goal to get into those areas,” said Gail Ryder, BayCare’s vice president for behavioral health.
The program will likely operate at a deficit, as many insurance providers do not provide reimbursement for behavioral health issues, according to the news release. But the expansions will allow for the treatment of about 5,800 additional outpatients and 1,000 inpatients per year, 22 percent and 6 percent increases in capacity, respectively.
“More and more, we all are beginning to appreciate how mental wellness is integral to individuals’ and our community’s well-being,” said BayCare CEO Tommy Inzina, in a statement. “As a community-based health care system, we want to be part of the solution to a healthier tomorrow for all of us.”