BayCare Health System, West Central Florida’s largest provider of behavioral health services, announced plans to significantly increase its capacity and commitment to both inpatient and outpatient behavioral health services in response to the community’s needs.
By mid-2022, BayCare will provide 24 more behavioral health inpatient beds at its hospitals. And over the next three years, the health system plans to add 65 more behavior health providers – a combination of psychiatrists and therapists — to provide outpatient services across the region. Twenty of those new providers are expected to be added by the end of 2021.
Once fully implemented, the investments are expected to provide behavioral health access for about 5,800 more outpatients each year, a 22 percent increase in BayCare’s current capacity, and access for about 1,000 more inpatients, a 6 percent increase. Also significant: Several of the new services are being offered in communities that currently have little or no access to behavioral health services.
“BayCare committed itself to addressing behavioral health needs in our community even before the pandemic, and we will sustain this commitment after,” said Rick Colón, BayCare Board Chairman. “We hope by taking this step we will encourage other providers to join us in providing more access to behavioral health services for our entire community.”
The investment is BayCare’s latest step in addressing the region’s behavioral health resources since the health system’s 2019 Community Health Needs Assessments (CHNA) highlighted the region’s unmet needs. It also comes amid growing demand nationally for such services due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The not-for-profit’s board of directors approved the investments earlier this month even with an awareness that the new services will operate at a deficit, as many behavioral health services are not likely to be reimbursed by insurance plans or other programs.
Informing the board’s action was a needs analysis by a national consultant that quantified the shortage of behavioral health providers in West Central Florida, including the Tampa Bay region. The study showed approximately 200 additional outpatient behavioral health providers are needed locally to meet the needs of the community.
As a result, West Central Florida residents are far less likely to access behavioral health services than similar populations in Houston, Memphis and Orlando.
“The consultant’s survey confirmed what all of us who are engaged already knew instinctively: Tampa Bay needs more providers, more services to help our neighbors who are struggling with mental wellness,” said BayCare’s immediate Past Board Chairman Eric Obeck. “But no one health system can do this alone. We hope other health care systems will respond to this dire need.”
The investment by BayCare comes roughly a year after the health care system worked to bring together a coalition of health care providers and community and government partners to address systemic access issues to behavioral health services for local residents. Tampa Bay Thrives, originally formed as the West Central Florida Mental Wellness Coalition, is working across Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Polk counties to improve the quality and access to resources for mental health and substance abuse disorders.
That coalition came together after BayCare’s 2019 CHNAs for hospitals across the four counties, conducted in concert with community partners, showed behavioral health as a top priority.
“BayCare’s mission is to serve the health of our community,” said CEO Tommy Inzina. “More and more, we all are beginning to appreciate how mental wellness is integral to individuals’ and our community’s well-being. As a community-based health care system, we want to be part of the solution to a healthier tomorrow for all of us.”
About BayCare Health System
BayCare is a leading not-for-profit health care system that connects individuals and families to a wide range of services at 15 hospitals and hundreds of other convenient locations throughout the Tampa Bay and central Florida regions. Inpatient and outpatient services include acute care, primary care, imaging, laboratory, behavioral health, home care, and wellness. Our mission is to improve the health of all we serve through community-owned, health care services that set the standard for high-quality, compassionate care.