photo by: Heartland Community Health Center
Updated at 1:15 p.m. Friday, June 2
Heartland Community Health Center announced a $3 million expansion project to its psychiatry and behavioral health care services Friday, 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 for a new building to be located directly east of its current facility at 1312 W. Sixth St. by September of 2024. That building will include designated spaces for a variety of services such as individual and play therapy, plus psychiatric care suites and a multipurpose room for group therapy and other programming.
This will be the latest in a series of expansions for Heartland in recent years. The agency moved into its space on Sixth St. just over a year and a half ago and last year in April added pharmacy services.
In the meantime, Heartland is introducing additional experienced psychiatrists and licensed therapists with a pediatric focus. Child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr. Nick Evangelidis is set to join the staff this August after most recently serving as the medical director and psychiatrist at mental health agency Katie’s Way in Manhattan.
Per the release, Evangelidis provides experience in assessment and medication management for children, adolescents and young adults with a wide range of behavioral health needs.
“Heartland has always been committed to delivering high-quality care to our community, and over the years we have seen a rise in demand for behavioral health services,” Heartland CEO Julie Branstrom said in the release. “This expansion is a reflection of that commitment, as we recognize the crucial role mental health plays in overall health. We’re not just increasing access to care, but also creating a space where people feel comfortable seeking help.”
That rise in demand is reflected in the number of folks Heartland provided mental health services to last year. In 2022, that was nearly 4,500 patients, more than 2,000 of which were managed by a primary care provider due to a lack of access to ongoing psychiatric treatment. That’s in line with Heartland’s integrated model of care which places access to behavioral health consultants, primary care and psychiatrists together under one roof.
But the release also notes access to pediatric psychiatry in Douglas County is very limited in itself. Last year, 1,437 patients younger than 18 received services for mental health conditions at Heartland, but the agency recorded that only 270 of them received at least one visit with a psychiatrist.
“The benefits of working with a collaborative team alongside child therapists and a pediatric primary care team will have many benefits,” Evangelidis said in the release. “We will help one another grow into better clinicians 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. Douglas County’s Behavioral Health Campus, located near LMH Health, is just a few blocks from the Heartland site. Branstrom told the Journal-World that Heartland’s new facility will be a complement to the services offered at the county facility. While the county facility offers crisis intervention services, Branstrom said Heartland’s services will be by appointment and include traditional therapy and psychiatry for adults and children. That’s based on direct demand from Heartland’s patients.
“According to our most recent patient access survey, psychiatry and behavioral health were services that rose to the top that patients most wanted expanded access to at Heartland,” Branstrom told the Journal-World. “As a result of this expansion, this will improve access to care and reduce wait times for appointment availability that patients are currently facing when we have to refer them out.”
Branstrom also told the Journal-World that the total budget for the project is $3 million, but nearly a third of that total is already accounted for. Heartland is leveraging $580,000 in federal grant funding and has currently raised another $338,056, putting the fundraising total thus far at just south of $920,000. She said Heartland is also launching a “Building Bright Futures” fundraising campaign to fund the remaining construction and operating costs for the space.