Centerstone cuts ribbon on needed Manatee expansion

The demand for beds in The Centerstone Hospital to house Manatee County residents suffering from drug addiction and psychiatric problems is so intense right now that Centerstone officials could not wait for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to put the seven beds in its new expansion to use.

Although they had a festive ribbon-cutting Tuesday in the lobby of Centerstone to officially open the hospital’s new 2,900-square-foot of space, hospital officials actually opened the new area for patients on Sept. 12 to meet demand, said Centerstone Chief Executive Officer Mary Ruiz.

The early opening is a reflection of how hard hit Manatee has been by the opioid epidemic and how badly Centerstone needed to increase from 30 to 37 beds, Ruiz added.

The hospital has been operating at capacity, Ruiz added. The new addition will allow it to serve more people in crisis.

“This is a pressing community need,” Ruiz told a crowd that included U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Florida, state Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, and a representative for state Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton.

“We have not only created more beds and space for those seeking treatment,” Ruiz said. “We’ve designed, in collaboration with our design and construction partners, a warm, patient-centered environment of hope and healing.”

The expansion, whose tab was roughly $540,000, carved new bedrooms, a community day room and a cafe for patients out of several old offices.

The project architect, Robert Schumake of Tampa, and construction chief, Jeff Charlotte of .J.E. Charlotte Construction Corp. of Venice, used natural light coming through strategically placed windows to give the expansion a warmth, Ruiz said.

“It’s fabulous,” Angela Dunbar, infection prevention and lab manager at the hospital, said of the expansion, which was off limits to the ribbon-cutting party since it was in use. “The patients love it. Patients in other areas ask to be switched there. It’s been totally filled for four weeks.”

“Warm” touches in the expansion include a new large, open, outside recreation area with grass, benches and tables.

The four new bedrooms have high-quality flooring as does the cafe.

In his remarks, Buchanan praised Ruiz, who announced Thursday that she was going to retire on Dec. 15 after 20 years as CEO. Her career actually started at the facility in 1987.

“I have been a member of Congress for 10 years and represented this community and worked closely with Mary,” Buchanan said. “She has been an incredible asset to this community. She has done so many positive things. I guess she is going to retire. I am sad about that.”

Richard Dymond: 941-745-7072, @RichardDymond