Months after Hurricane Ian damaged a mental health care facility, their doors are still closed, meaning people in the Fort Myers area desperate for mental health care are going without.
On Thursday, SalusCare gave WINK News a tour of their facility and discussed what it would take to re-open their doors.
Currently, their hallways are empty, the beds are covered with tarps, and board games are sitting untouched.
“People are dying as a result,” said SalusCare President Stacey Cook.
People are dying because the locked doors lead to the SalusCare Crisis Stabilization Unit. The only mental health crisis unit in Lee County.
Since the hurricane, hundreds of patients facing a behavioral health crisis are not getting the help they need, and Cook said that could be life-threatening.
“We’re able to stabilize an individual who is suicidal and homicidal. We’re able to link patients to services that they need in order to become well. So it’s absolutely critical. It’s an important and essential component of healthcare. And it’s missing right now. It is a huge missing link,” said Cook.
SalusCare is also the place where police departments take people having a mental health crisis. Now many of them go to Lee Health.
Two feet of water flooded the SalusCare facility during Hurricane Ian. Now, the center is caught in an insurance battle between wind and water insurance carriers.
SalusCare says it does not have the $1.5 million to pay for repairs out of pocket. FEMA might be an option, but so far has not offered public assistance.
Another option is to go to court. SalusCare Treasurer Ed Kleinow said the center is determined to reopen. “If that means borrowing money, if it means community fundraising, we’ll do that. I think we may have wasted too much time already waiting on the insurance company.”
“No matter what, we won’t stop fighting,” said Cook.
While SalusCare is fighting hard to reopen its doors, as of now, there is no timetable for when that will be.
Before the hurricane, SalusCare received 500 to 600 patients a month through the Baker Act while also caring for 250 to 300 adults and children in crisis.