Photo by: Heartland Community Health Center
Updated at 1:15pm on Friday 2nd June
Heartland Community Health Center announced Friday a $3 million expansion project for its psychiatry and behavioral health care services, including plans to break ground on an 8,000-square-foot building designated to house those services.
According to a press release issued Friday morning, Heartland plans to construct a new building directly east of its current structure at 1312 W. Sixth St. by September 2024. That building will include designated spaces for a variety of services such as individual services and game, as well as psychiatric care suites and a multipurpose room for group therapy and other programs.
This will be the latest in a series of expansions for Heartland in recent years. The agency moved into its Sixth St. space a little over a year and a half ago and added pharmacy services in April last year.
Meanwhile, Heartland is introducing additional experienced psychiatrists and licensed therapists with a pediatric focus. Child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr. Nick Evangelidis will join the staff this August after serving as medical director and psychiatrist at the Katie’s Way mental health agency in Manhattan.
According to the release, Evangelidis provides expertise in medication assessment and management for children, adolescents and young adults with a broad range of behavioral health needs.
“Heartland has always been committed to providing high-quality care to our community, and over the years we have seen an increase in demand for behavioral health services,” said Julie Branstrom, CEO of Heartland. “This expansion is a reflection of that commitment, as we recognize the crucial role mental health plays in overall health. We’re not only increasing access to care, but we’re also creating a space where people feel comfortable seeking help.”
The increased demand is reflected in the number of people Heartland provided mental health services to in the past year. In 2022, this was nearly 4,500 patients, of which more than 2,000 were managed by a primary care provider due to lack of access to ongoing psychiatric care. This is in line with Heartland’s integrated model of care which brings together access to behavioral health, primary care and psychiatric counselors under one roof.
But the release also notes that access to pediatric psychiatry in Douglas County is inherently very limited. Last year, 1,437 patients under the age of 18 received services for mental health conditions at Heartland, but the agency recorded that only 270 of them received at least one visit from a psychiatrist.
“The benefits of working with a collaborative team along with child therapists and a pediatric primary care team will have many benefits,” Evangelidis said in the release. “We will help each other become better doctors and providers for families by working together as a team at Heartland.”
The project will be the second major recent addition of behavioral health care services in the community. The Douglas County Behavioral Health Campus, located near LMH Health, is just a few blocks from the Heartland site. Branstrom told the Journal-World that the new Heartland facility will be a complement to the services offered at the county facility. Although the county facility offers crisis intervention services, Branstrom said Heartland’s services will be by appointment and include mainstream therapy and psychiatry for adults and children. This is based on direct patient request from Heartland.
“According to our most recent patient access survey, psychiatry and behavioral health were services that rose to the top where patients most wanted expanded access to Heartland,” Branstrom told Journal-World. “As a result of this expansion, this will improve access to care and reduce the wait times for appointment availability that patients currently face when we need to refer them.”
Branstrom also told Journal-World that the total budget for the project is $3 million, but nearly a third of that total has already been accounted for. Heartland is leveraging $580,000 in federal grants and has currently raised another $338,056, bringing its fundraising total to date to just under $920,000. He said Heartland is also launching a “Building Bright Futures” fundraising campaign to fund remaining construction and operating costs for the space.
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