Cape Coral residents with a mental illness or a substance abuse problem won't have to drive over the river to get screenings or treatment anymore.
That's because SalusCare has opened a new location on Cultural Park Boulevard, across the street from city hall, giving the entity an opportunity to treat Cape residents a little closer to home.
On Wednesday, SalusCare held a grand opening and open house to formally announce that screenings for substance use and mental health disorders will now occur in Cape Coral, making for the third access location in Lee County.
Mayor Marni Sawicki, County Commissioner Brian Hamman and local business leaders took the guided tour of the new location, with a brief ceremony and refreshments highlighting the event.
Free walk-in screenings, which began at the end of April, will be offered from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday. The initial screening is free, but subsequent assessments will have a cost, on a sliding scale.
"This will make access for our Cape Coral patients much better. When we merged, one of our objectives was to open up accessibility and make it easier for our patients," said SalusCare chairman Marshall Bower. "We recognize Cape Coral is the largest in Southwest Florida and we really need to pay attention to them."
Before the new location, Cape residents had to take the Midpoint Bridge and go all the way down Colonial Avenue to Ortiz Avenue in Fort Myers. This inconvenience was a recurring theme throughout the event.
Now, even the youngest of the population can get the help they need.
"I know the need for mental health services. This is one-stop shopping and it's history in the making," said School Board member Mary Fischer.
Sawicki also saw the importance of it, and not just because she can see it out her window. She has been personally touched by the need of substance abuse screenings, as she has a family member with a drinking problem.
"It's an amazing facility and something long needed. I personally know what Al-Anon can do. It's an important part of the community," Sawicki said. "Who knows how many more they'll reach knowing they won't have to go over the bridge."
"This is going to remove one of the barriers Cape residents will have in seeking treatment. It's one less stress for them in their search for help," Hamman said.
SalusCare is the result of a merger last year between Lee Mental Health and Southwest Florida Addiction Services, SWFAS. The merger joined a workforce of 450 employees that was expected to provide care to more than 17,000 patients annually with mental illnesses or drug addictions.
"To say we're excited is an understatement. We've talked about for a year, and this is the culmination of hours of planning and it's an important commitment we're making," said Don Baracskay, chief medical officer of SalusCare.