Columbia County Report: New mental health facility coming to Lake City at LakeShore Hospital

The LakeShore Hospital Authority wanted to make sure the facility continued to be used for medical purposes
Published: Feb. 8, 2023 at 5:09 PM EST
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LAKE CITY, Fla. (WCJB) - For three years the former Shands LakeShore Hospital has sat vacant in Lake City.

Now, thanks to an agreement between the Lakeshore Hospital Authority and Meridian Behavioral Healthcare, it will become a brand new mental health facility.

“Super excited,” said Meridian COO, Lauren Cohn. “I think it was a huge moment for us and for mental health awareness in general because we really saw the tides kind of turn on how people felt about our proposal and our services.”

The board’s director says they received multiple proposals for how to use the hospital, but wanted it to continue to be used for medical purposes.

Meridian also said it would fund renovations that must be made to the building themselves, rather than the board paying for them.

“The other proposals that we had,” said the board’s director, Brandon Biel, “they were wanting The [LakeShore Hospital] authority to give the property to them and make a financial investment into the building to get them up to those standards. It just wasn’t feasible for the authority--which is funded by the taxpayers--to pay for those renovations.”

The two parties came to the agreement at a meeting Tuesday night, where some expressed concern about opening a mental health facility in downtown lake city.

“I think, unfortunately, there was a lot of discussion about stigma and stigma is real,” said Cohn, “and the image that folks conjure up when they think of our services, is not what they’ll see when they come to our campus. This facility is a locked, secure campus where folks would be coming to receive the treatment that they need.”

Biel toured the Gainesville facility and wants to ease concerns.

“There’s a park right next door to it--a dog park,” said Beil. “It was quiet, it was a clean facility. There’s definitely a stigma to a mental health facility and what people have in their mind what that’s gonna look like. I can tell you from visiting the Alachua County campus of Meridian, it’s not what I had in my mind.”

There are three other buildings on the campus of LakeShore Hospital, and the board’s director says they are still considering what to do with them.

The two parties are still working out the details of the agreement.

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