FORT WALTON BEACH —Bridgeway Center’s Crisis Stabilization Unit will close its doors in March, affecting numerous agencies in Okaloosa and Walton counties.
The closing is expected no later than March 31.
According to a news release from Bridgeway, Florida’s reimbursement rate is $293.24 per bed. The actual cost to Bridgeway is estimated at $516.58 per bed.
“The differential between rates and costs leaves a daily operational deficit for (Bridgeway)’s 16 inpatient beds of approximately $3,573.44 per day,” Daniel Cobbs, Bridgeway’s CEO, said Wednesday.
Cobbs said health care facilities’ budgets have not adjusted for inflation since 1993, causing operational costs to far exceed the dollars available.
“It’s not just us who are affected; it’s statewide with the legislative priorities right now,” Cobbs said. “If there had been an adjustment we wouldn’t be in this predicament. That is the root cause behind all this.”
Floridaranks 49th among states in the percentage of uninsured people with incomes below the federal poverty level, It also is 49th in the nation for state funding per capita for mental health funding, according to the news release.
“The Legislature has prioritized hard services in prior budget years over some of the mental health services that have been provided,” said state Rep. Matt Gaetz. “We don’t want to have more counseling at the expense of providing food and medicine to people in nursing homes.”
Gaetz said recent events such as the shooting in Newton, Conn., in December could change the budget priorities and put more focus on “soft services” in coming years.
“That will not be without some pain in the budget to someone else,” Gaetz added. “That’s the process we work through in putting together a budget.”
In addition to the Crisis Stabilization Unit, Bridgeway’s Detoxification Unit, Emergency Services and Food Services will close, according to the news release. The closures will affect 41 full- and part-time employees and contractors. Twelve employees will be transferred to other positions at Bridgeway
The nonprofit agency has served the area since 1991. It serves local law enforcement agencies and contracts with the Florida Department of Children and Families.
“It’s a horrible situation for us,” Okaloosa County Sheriff Larry Ashley said. “That Crisis Stabilization Unit screens 220 to 225 folks a month, and they admit about 100 of those. Those 2,200 to 3,000 people are now going to be at the emergency room or jail. This drives up costs for everyone.
“The poor people that can’t afford this mental health care end up in our jails and hospitals, which creates an issue for us and they won’t get the treatment they need.”
Ashley said he anticipates the closings will add to calls for service, given the increase in Baker Act patients and suicide attempts the last few years. He said immediate plans on how best to handle the situation are being discussed.
Fort Walton BeachMedical Centeris the only other local health facility that offers crisis stabilization and detoxification services.
“As with everything, we’re taking a step back and assessing the situation,” said Mark Steinbauer, director of psychiatric services at the hospital. “We do expect increased traffic in our emergency department, but I don’t think we’re very concerned.
“We look at everything in terms of opportunity. It is our mission to provide optimal health for everyone. We will be supplying those services in the future in any way that we are able and need to. We’re excited about the possibilities.”
Bridgeway’s inpatient services treats 10 clients a day. Cobbs said some new payment plans would change the procedure to make it so that the agency only would be paid for beds occupied. That would mean even less money for the already-strapped healthcare agency.
For now, Cobbs said officials are disusing how to work with the void Bridgeway’s inpatient services will leave.
“We’ve been talking with our community partners to see what we can come up with to make this as smooth as possible,” Cobbs said. “We’re making lemonade out of lemons. This is going to have a significant impact on the community and we’re just going to have to work closely with our partners to see what alternatives we have to make this less of a problem.”
Contact Daily News Staff Writer Angel McCurdy at 850-315-4432 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @AngelMnwfdn.