BayCare acquires Tampa mental health center, plans more services

The hospital system took over Northside Behavioral Health Center.
The Northside Behavioral Health Center off Bruce B. Downs Boulevard in Tampa was recently acquired by BayCare Health System.
The Northside Behavioral Health Center off Bruce B. Downs Boulevard in Tampa was recently acquired by BayCare Health System. [ Google Maps ]
Published Jan. 5|Updated Jan. 5

BayCare Health System has acquired a major behavioral health center in Tampa and plans to expand its services, hospital leaders announced this week.

Effective Jan. 1, BayCare assumed ownership of the nonprofit Northside Behavioral Health Center. The center provides counseling to low-income individuals and operates two group homes and a 20-bed crisis stabilization unit, among other programs.

BayCare, a 15-hospital health care system, previously managed the center for seven years.

The hospital system is the region’s largest behavioral health care provider. It plans to maintain Northside’s current services and expand them in the future to meet the area’s growing demand for mental health care, said Gail Ryder, BayCare’s vice president of behavioral health.

Related: Tampa Bay suicide hotline operators struggle with surge of calls

“There’s really no difference for the patients,” Ryder said. “Their doctors will be the same. ... What you’ll see over time is growth. We really need to grow the services” as Hillsborough County’s population booms.

All Northside employees — more than 100 — accepted jobs at BayCare, she said.

The center’s main building is off Bruce B. Downs Boulevard near the University of South Florida’s Tampa campus and the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital. It is now called BayCare Northside Behavioral Health Center. (BayCare didn’t buy Northside; it assumed ownership, Ryder said.)

Services at Northside include outpatient counseling for adults and therapy for children. People will not be denied access to counseling due to an inability to pay, and Northside provides a discounted or sliding fee schedule for those who struggle to afford services.

Related: Following the news can be stressful. Here’s how Floridians can cope.

The center is also a Baker Act receiving facility with state-funded beds in a crisis stabilization unit, which provides short-term psychiatric care for adults in a mental health emergency.

Northside also offers referral-based housing programs, with 69 beds total, to individuals diagnosed with mental illness, according to BayCare spokesperson Lisa Razler.

On average, Northside treats about 25,000 patients per year, Ryder said.

Its revenue was over $10.8 million in fiscal year 2019-20, according to an annual tax form.

“We’re preserving a very important asset for the county,” Ryder said. “Our commitment to keep it and grow it as a community mental health center is critical for Hillsborough. ... Expansion has to happen because the demand is getting out of control.”

Related: Florida’s mental health care system is a ‘mess.’ Group will pitch reforms.

Last year, Florida was ranked 46th in the U.S. for access to mental health care by national advocacy group Mental Health America. The nonprofit based its rankings on access to insurance, treatment and special education, along with the cost and quality of insurance and the number of mental health care providers.

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Nearly 60% of Florida adults diagnosed with a mental illness — almost 1.7 million people — do not receive treatment, the group said.