A Bright Spot for Mental Health Care Community Celebrates Opening of Sarasota Memorial’s New Cornell Behavioral Health Pavilion

SARASOTA, Fla. (Dec. 5, 2023) – With its large, gleaming windows and contemporary design, Sarasota Memorial’s new Cornell Behavioral Health Pavilion has been a welcome sight to many who have witnessed the spacious, 3-story facility taking shape from timeworn quarters in the hospital’s old Bayside Center for Behavioral Health across the street.

Today, however, marks a new day for behavioral health in Sarasota. SMH’s behavioral health team, and approximately 50 patients in their care, are moving into the state-of-the-art facility designed from the ground up to provide the latest in mental health care. The older psychiatric facility that has served a vital safety-net role for more than 50 years officially closes today.

“This is an incredible milestone, not just for Sarasota Memorial, but for our entire community,” said David Verinder, CEO of Sarasota Memorial Health Care System. “The pavilion will be a life-changing destination for those struggling with mental health challenges.”

Last week, hundreds of community members, mental health advocates and local officials stopped in for a sneak peek of the $74 million pavilion, participating in a week of grand opening celebrations that included a ribbon-cutting, donor recognition and tours of its innovative treatment areas and therapeutic design.

The pavilion is named after Brian and Martha Cornell, in recognition of their $10 million donation to support the creation of the new facility. Brian, who is Chair and CEO of Target Corp., and Martha participated in a recent opening event, where they described the vision and ambition behind their gift.

“At the end of the day, our deepest hope is that this facility not only changes lives in Florida, which it certainly will,” said Brian. “But it also helps eliminate the stigma around mental health, and serves as a blueprint, inspiring others to support similar projects all across America.”

“We are so grateful to have played a part in creating such a stunning, welcoming space, which is filled with so many amazing, caring people who will change lives for many years to come,” said Martha.

Located on the SMH-Sarasota campus, the Cornell Behavioral Health Pavilion was designed using best practices and innovative design elements to provide a warm, welcoming environment where people of all ages can be comfortable seeking treatment for a range of behavioral health issues, including anxiety, depression, substance abuse, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and other mental health disorders.

The pavilion offers a complete continuum of care, from intensive outpatient counseling and partial hospitalization to inpatient admissions and crisis stabilization. The behavioral health team also supports a 24/7 assessment center staffed around the clock by licensed therapists who not only help people through a crisis, but also help them navigate the many questions and complexities surrounding mental health conditions and care.

Sarasota Memorial’s behavioral health team is trained in trauma-informed care and includes board-certified psychiatrists and about 150 mental health nurses, therapists, social workers, behavioral health technicians and support staff. SMH hired about 50 new clinicians this year to expand and enhance care in the new facility.

The first floor houses a comprehensive array of outpatient programs, including a partial hospitalization program that provides 20 hours of week of therapy and serves as a “step down” program to help people transition to a home environment after hospitalization, or prevent a hospitalization altogether. Other services include intensive outpatient programs for youth, adults and older adults, and advanced procedures, including neurostimulation and transcranial magnetic stimulation.

With soft, soothing colors, comfortable furniture and inspiring artwork, every design element in the new pavilion was carefully selected to promote relaxation and recovery. The pavilion’s two upper floors are dedicated to hospitalized patients. The inpatient areas are separated into four “neighborhood pods,” each designed to meet the needs of specific populations — a 16-bed geriatric unit for older or frail adults; a 22-bed child and adolescent unit; a 24-bed an adult unit; and 20-bed acute care unit. In addition to private rooms with piped music, flat-screen TVs, mood lighting and large, sunlit windows, each pod has individual and group therapy areas for patients to work through different levels of care. They also have dining and visitation areas, screened patios, a gym with a basketball court, stationary bikes, yoga and fitness equipment, and sensory rooms where patients can recline in a cushioned chair, covered by a weighted blanket and relax with aromatherapy, meditation and other activities to help regulate emotions.

While the pavilion marks a new day for behavioral health care in the community, mental health has been an important part of Sarasota Memorial’s mission for decades. Sarasota Memorial is the only hospital in Sarasota that provides behavioral health services to patients of all ages, from children to seniors. During opening events last week, Verinder thanked Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Foundation and local donors for supporting the replacement facility of the old Bayside Center, which was not designed to accommodate the needs of today.

“We have always provided excellent clinical care, but we wanted to serve our patients in a more supportive and therapeutic environment,” Verinder said. “The new pavilion represents an important investment in behavioral health and will allow us to provide the five-star service that Sarasota Memorial is known for in so many other specialties in a state-of-the-art facility.”

About Sarasota Memorial

Sarasota Memorial Health Care System is a regional referral center offering Southwest Florida’s greatest breadth and depth of care, with more than 1 million patient visits each year across its 2 hospital campuses, a freestanding ER, skilled nursing and rehabilitation center and network of outpatient/urgent care centers and physician practices. Its flagship 897-bed Sarasota hospital has been consistently recognized as one of the nation’s best, with superior patient outcomes and comprehensive network of outpatient services. In November 2021, the public health system opened a second acute-care hospital, SMH-Venice, to serve the growing south Sarasota County region, and the Brian D. Jellison Cancer Institute to expand cancer care in the community. For more information, visit smh.com.

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