Melissa Larkin-Skinner began her new career as Centerstone of Florida’s new chief executive officer Wednesday by taking charge of a $3 million expansion of the Crisis Stabilization Center at Centerstone’s Behavioral Hospital & Addiction Center at 2020 26th Ave. E., Bradenton.
After serving as the interim leader of Manatee County’s main mental health provider for several months following the retirement last year of CEO Mary Ruiz, Larkin-Skinner got a call from Centerstone corporate Wednesday informing her that she was officially the CEO.
“I first called my family, who are all in town visiting me,” Larkin-Skinner said with a laugh.
Larkin-Skinner is starting her tenure in the middle of the opioid epidemic in Manatee County.
It’s an expansion of the men’s and women’s areas as well as a completely new children’s wing. We have a record number of kids in child welfare. All those kids are traumatized.
Melissa Larkin-Skinner, CEO of Centerstone of Florida
But the planning for the 2,000-square-foot new expansion along with extensive renovation of the crisis center actually has been in the works since 2005, and the opioid epidemic just crossed paths with the project, said Michelle Abercrombie, Centerstone’s director of facilities and safety officer.
“Basically, we planned this years ago,” Abercrombie said. “They had the idea of expanding the children’s unit of the Crisis Stabilization Unit.”
The project raises the number of beds overall in the Crisis Stabilization Unit from 25 to 30, Larkin-Skinner said.
“It’s an expansion of the men’s and women’s areas as well as a completely new children’s wing,” Larkin-Skinner added. “We have a record number of kids in child welfare. All those kids are traumatized.”
Centerstone is now treating children as young as age 4, 5 and 6 due to the epidemic and other issues, Larkin-Skinner said.
“Some people say the heavy focus on testing in the school system is also a factor,” Larkin-Skinner said. “Kids have increased stress. They have less free time or recess and less character development. It’s constant academics the whole time.”
Architect Robert Shumake of Tampa and construction chief Jeff Charlotte of J.E. Charlotte Construction Corp. of Venice, who hope to be finished by late July, have been asked to create bright new bedrooms in the children’s wing with windows that look out at trees, a new outdoor rec area with a basketball court, a larger day room area with skylights in the ceilings and an extra playground area with a kid-friendly surface just for smaller children, Abercrombie said.
A huge big screen TV in the day room will play educational videos, like how to handle a bully, Abercrombie added.
In order to pay for the building, Centerstone was able to get a federal loan which covers the entire amount, Larkin-Skinner said.
After a number of years of paying, a large portion of the debt will be forgiven, Larkin-Skinner added.
“I really want to keep us on the path we are on,” Larkin-Skinner said of her goals as the nonprofits new leader. “I think we are doing great things. All of these new things are responses to what our community needs.”
Other Centerstone programs in the works
Larkin-Skinner is also overseeing a new program in Sarasota County called “Comprehensive Treatment Court” which provides jail diversion services for people who are incarcerated with mental health issues.
“I would love to have a jail diversion program in Manatee County because people with severe mental health issues shouldn’t be sitting in jail,” Larkin-Skinner said, revealing what direction her leadership may take Centerstone in the future. “With the right combination of medicines and support services many will not return to jail.”
Centerstone also has a new program in Manatee County called “Family Intensive Treatment Team” which provides services to adults who are struggling with addiction and are involved with child welfare.
Larkin-Skinner is also responsible for keeping tabs on Centerstone’s new assignment with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office as a sub-contractor to treat Sarasota inmates who need mental health services, similar to what Centerstone now does for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.