Utilizing a financing strategy that is rare in Manatee County, Centerstone was able to cut the ribbon Thursday on a newly remodeled, $4.5 million Crisis Center, which features a light and airy feel and an increase in beds from 25 to 30.
“This is a state-of-the-art crisis center,” remarked Linda Agresta, a member of the Centerstone of Florida board of directors after a tour of the remodeled psychiatric facility, which features light-green colored bedrooms with ajoining bathrooms packed with safety features. There are push buttons on the sinks so clients can’t harm themselves by breaking off a faucet, grab handles on the shower, a metal strip to prevent looping of a ligature, and toilets that will not break into harmful shards with a swift kick.
Centerstone, formerly Manatee Glens, borrowed $6 million using the federal New Market Tax Credit Program to finance the renovation at Centerstone Hospital & Addiction Center at 2020 26th Ave. E., Bradenton., said Sean Gingras, Centerstone’s chief financial officer.
Through 2016, there were only six completed federal New Market Tax Credit Program projects in Florida, all in Orlando, according to the website of the U.S. Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institution Fund, which administers the New Market Tax Credit Program.
However, the Minnie Rogers Plaza project in Bradenton was approved for $6 million in the federal New Market Tax Credit Program, but was never funded, according to Herald archives.
“New Market Tax Credit is an arrangement where banks receive tax credits from the federal government to finance projects in under-served areas,” Gingras said.
Centerstone worked with a broker who was able to line up two investors, Wells Fargo Bank and a company called Nonprofit Financing Fund, to complete a deal that, in Gingras’ opinion, was the most advantageous funding choice for Centerstone and for the community.
“We were looking at either going through conventional financing, which is going to a bank, or moving forward on this tax credit idea which we studied for many years,” said Gingras who noted that no sources were available at the county or state level.
“The tax credit program is more favorable to the community as opposed to conventional financing where we have to pay back the entire principal,” Gingras added.
In the deal that Centerstone struck with its two investors, if Centerstone stays in compliance with its seven-year financial plan, it will only have to pay back $4.9 million of the $6 million principal it borrowed, Gingras said.
It does have to make interest payments to the investors at a slightly above market rate, Gingras added.
“Wells Fargo receives a 28 percent tax credit for contributing a portion of the money and, at the end of the seven years, that 28 percent is the portion of the principal on the loan that they will forgive us, less some fees,” Gingras said. “The federal government encourages banks to do these investments by giving them this tax credit.”
A welcome event for worried Manatee families
The remodeled center, which also focuses on lots of big windows to let in natural light, lots of tile as well as new recreation spaces, will be a welcome addition to Manatee County families, who often worry about their loved ones being able to stay in Manatee County for potentially life-saving mental health care, said Melissa Larkin-Skinner, chief executive officer of Centerstone.
“What has happened is that we are full all the time and its frustrating for people who need help,” Larkin-Skinner said.
“In acute care, sometimes we have to send patients to other places, partner organizations in other counties,” Larkin-Skinner added. “We want to keep them here. This is where they live and where their families are.”
“Now we will have greater capacity to serve them,” Larkin-Skinner added.
Another key piece to the remodel of the Crisis Center was the development of a new space for younger children, separating them from older children, Larkin-Skinner said.
Centerstone recently added seven beds to its main hospital, using $700,000 of its $6 million tax credit loan, bringing its new bed total, with the new renovation, to 12 beds.
Reporter Janelle O’Dea contributed to this story.