Construction begins on new Human Services Center

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By the fall of 2022, Franklin County residents will be getting a major boost in their ability to access behavioral health services, to address everything from drug dependency to delinquency.

At a ceremony Nov. 3, DISC Village, a Big Bend based non-profit behavioral health provider, broke ground on the new Franklin County Human Services Center at 150 10th Street in Apalachicola, across from the former site of the Love Center Church, on property adjacent to the George E. Weems Memorial Hospital.

Construction of the new 5,500-square-foot facility. by Crawfordville-based Perez Construction Inc., is expected to take nine to 10 months with an opening planned for Fall 2022.

Sheriff A.J. Smith, who spoke at the ceremony along with DISC Village CEO John Wilson, has long advocated for a drug rehab facility, with a possible inpatient component. The new human services center will be strictly outpatient, and will address drug dependency help along with a host of other services.

“DISC village has beds in Woodville if it gets to where we need one. Why build one when they have empty beds 80 miles from here?” Smith said. “It may come later.

“Right now outpatient services are so important,” he said. “Anything they can get from DISC Village they’ll be able to get here.”

The new center will enable residents of the Big Bend’s coastal communities to access services not now available in the immediate area. The center will offer preventive healthcare and prescribed services which will include adult and youth outpatient. medication-assisted treatment, dependency case management and supervised family visitations.

The supervised visitation center and offices for Disc Villages dependency case managers will better serve the child welfare population in Franklin and surrounding counties. Currently, the closest available offering for these services are the DISC Village locations in Tallahassee.

“The new center represents a significant opportunity for both Franklin County residents and those from surrounding areas such as western Wakulla County and Liberty County,” said Wilson. “The Franklin County Human Services Center will reduce the time and resources needed for coastal residents to access care from DISC Village professionals.”

DISC Village operates as a multi-site community-based child welfare, criminal justice, diversion, and substance abuse/mental health treatment center, and is recognized as a leader in the state for initiating, managing, and coordinating delinquency and substance abuse prevention and intervention programs in Northwest Florida.

As a private, non-profit corporation, DISC Village is licensed by the State of Florida through the Department of Children and Families and is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, demonstrating compliance with national standards.

Smith said the county jail will continue to find places for local residents to access inpatient drug treatment services, such as Teen Challenge in Pensacola.

“We’re placing people in inpatient programs out of the county all over the state,” he said. “It depends where they have a bed. And all of them are free.”

Smith said none of the dollars used to build, staff and maintain the new center are coming from county taxpayers, but will be forthcoming from federal and state drug treatment and behavioral health monies, administered by Northwest Florida Health Network. That non-profit organization, formerly known as Big Bend Community Based Care Inc., is headed by CEO Mike Watkins.

Staci Smith, DISC Village’s director of business development, said the hiring process has already begun for several social worker, at both the bachelor’s and master’s degree levels, as well as other behavioral health care aide positions and other staffers.

She said inquiries can be made to her at staci.smith@discvillage.org.

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