Health News

Manatee’s Centerstone becoming ‘lighter, warmer, softer’

Melissa Larkin-Skinner, chief clinical officer at Centerstone of Florida, Manatee County's behavioral health provider, shows where crews are renovating a 2,700-square-foot psychiatric unit at 2020 26th Ave. E. that should be finished and opened by August, 2016. The $540,000 project will create four new bedrooms, a community room and a cafe, that are needed for much needed mental health and addictions care.
Melissa Larkin-Skinner, chief clinical officer at Centerstone of Florida, Manatee County's behavioral health provider, shows where crews are renovating a 2,700-square-foot psychiatric unit at 2020 26th Ave. E. that should be finished and opened by August, 2016. The $540,000 project will create four new bedrooms, a community room and a cafe, that are needed for much needed mental health and addictions care. gjefferies@bradenton.com

The new cafe and day room for patients and their families being transformed out of old office space at Centerstone of Florida’s hospital and addiction center at 2020 26th Ave. E., Bradenton, have been designed so they are bathed by the natural light coming through strategically placed windows.

Capturing natural light was actually a request made to project architect Robert Schumake of Tampa when he took on the $540,000 renovation of the hospital’s existing south wing, said Melissa Larkin-Skinner, Centerstone’s chief clinical officer.

“This is my favorite part of the renovation,” Larkin-Skinner said during a tour of the construction last week as she pointed to a large glass window where a solid door used to be. “Now, light will come in, which is fantastic.”

Centerstone officials say although the renovation, which started in April and is set to be finished in August, is mostly about converting offices to four new bedrooms, a cafe, a day room and a new outside recreation area, it is also about making Centerstone a lighter, warmer and softer place.

“We want a comfortable feeling for clients and visitors,” Michele M. Abercrombie, Centerstone’s facility director, said last week as she stood in midst of the project, being completed by J.E. Construction Corp. of Venice and being led by construction manager Jesse Richards of Bradenton.

Unfortunately, a lot of our folks don’t have a lot of hope. A lot of them have had horrible things happen to them in their lives. For many, every day is a struggle because they are hearing voices or have an addiction to something. I admire their ability to make it through every day and so I want to do everything I can to help them do that.

Melissa Larkin-Skinner, chief clinical officer, Centerstone of Florida

“My main goal is to make sure everyone is happy,” said Abercrombie, who uses her skills as a former sous chef and painting business owner, to inform her staff, which includes Centerstone’s cooks, drivers, maintenance people and housekeeping. “We are trying to refurbish other areas of the hospital, too, to make things more warm.”

Abercrombie hinted that this new softer approach will slowly spread to all four of Centerstone’s facilities, which include the hospital on 26th Street East; the administrative center, walk-in clinic and rape crisis center at 379 Sixth Ave. W., Bradenton; Centerstone — East County, which provides counseling and treatment at 5214 Fourth Ave. Circle E., Bradenton; and, finally, Centerstone of Sarasota, which offers out-patient therapy at 4010 Sawyer Road, Sarasota.

The renovations, which are coming directly out of Centerstone’s operating revenues, will lift Centerstone up to 92 patient beds at all of its local facilities, more in line with Manatee County’s population, which is growing by about 5,000 annually, Larkin-Skinner said.

Making it easier to believe in hope

A lighter, warmer, softer, more comfortable place is now considered important for those who must spend time being stabilized for psychiatric and addiction issues, said Samantha Kolb, director of Centerstone’s addiction center.

“We want it to be warm, homey, comforting, not what people who are clients here would expect from a psychiatric facility, which can be cold tile and florescent lights,” Kolb said last week. “We are trying to make it so it doesn’t look like a hospital, at least that is my hope. In the cafe, for instance, you can expect people to be watching TV and having a snack like in any common area of a facility.”

While Mary Ruiz, Centerstone’s president and chief executive officer, said she, too, was thrilled by the natural light the architect is achieving, her first priority was increasing the beds.

“We looked at the needs in the community and determined we really needed to step up,” Ruiz said last week. “We had this administrative hallway dedicated to offices and we decided if we converted it to beds it would allow us to get beds on line faster, rather than building something new.”

“This will now give us 37 beds in the hospital, up from 30, a little better than a 25 percent increase,” Ruiz said.

Other “warm” touches at the hospital include a new large, open, outside recreation area with grass, benches and tables.

The four new bedrooms will have high-quality faux-wood, vinyl, plank flooring as will the cafe, Abercrombie said.

The new bedrooms, cafe and day room will be painted light green and cream and the bedrooms will have walk in showers. The bedroom walls will be made of a special dry wall with a metal mesh inside so that it absorbs sound and impact just in case someone next door is having a bad day.

“In the cafe we will have a counter top area with stools, a TV, a refrigerator with snacks, a desk with a computer and WIFI access, so everyone can stay connected,” Abercrombie said.

The light, the paint, the cafe, all of it may make it easier to revive hope, Larkin-Skinner said.

“Unfortunately, a lot of our folks don’t have a lot of hope,” Larkin-Skinner said. “A lot of them have had horrible things happen to them in their lives. For many, every day is a struggle because they are hearing voices or have an addiction to something. I admire their ability to make it through every day and so I want to do everything I can to help them do that.”

Sometimes it’s hard for Centerstone’s clients to see hope, Larkin-Skinner said.

“I believe that is why we are here,” Larkin-Skinner said. “We hope for them when they can’t and show them and guide them to that hope.”

Richard Dymond: 941-745-7072, @RichardDymond

Want to help?

Centerstone needs every day clothes for clients including:

  • Men’s jeans
  • Sweatpants
  • T-shirts
  • New underwear and socks
  • Sneakers

Donations of new or used clothing can be brought to Centerstone Administrative Offices, 379 Sixth Ave. W., Bradenton or Centerstone Hospital, 2020 26th Ave. E., Bradenton. Information: 941-782-4299.

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