(Yvonne Bertovich/WUFT News)

Meridian Behavioral Healthcare Expanding Due To Increased Needs


Meridian Behavioral Healthcare is adding a new wing to its Sid Martin Bridge House residence hall.

Bridge House is home to women in the Mother’s Intensive Supportive Treatment (MIST) program. Bridge House is host to 10 beds, but more space is needed in the facility due to an increase in demand. With an increase in demand and limited space, applicants are placed on a waiting list. There’s almost always a waiting list, said Alan Paulin, director of MIST.

“We need the extra capacity to accommodate the surrounding area and to try to keep families intact,” Paulin said.

The new addition would feature 10 to 12 new beds, and it would include a facility to include family members in the rehabilitation process. Paulin said family members are in need of space to assist their loved ones and including them will help the recovery process.  The cost for the addition is estimated around $750,000, and all of the money will be obtained through private fundraising, Paulin said.

“We want to make more of a family environment to give them a better chance at making it after they leave,” Paulin said. “We want to enhance the success of the family as a unit by coaching them on how to stay together and be self-sufficient.”

MIST addresses the social problems stemming from substance abuse while it treats the physical symptoms. The program helps mothers obtain prenatal care to ensure their children are born drug-free. 

To qualify for the program, the applicants must be pregnant, or they must have recently given birth. The MIST program allows the infants to live onsite with their mothers to ensure that critical bonding between mother and child take place. The MIST expansion will allow children of all ages to live with their mothers during rehabilitation. Women admitted into MIST live on site for 6 to 12 months. Then, they begin a transition period consisting of home visits five days per week in an outpatient setting.

The Florida Department of Children and Families regulates MIST, and DCF works to keep families together.

Narcotic sales have risen in Alachua County in the last two to three years, according to the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office. Marijuana is the number one narcotic sold in Alachua County, said John Richman, a lieutenant on the drug task force for ACSO. Cocaine and crack cocaine are a close second, he said.

“My team conducts investigations, figure out where the drugs came from and who sold them. Our goal is to get as many drugs as we can off the streets.”

There are signs to look for if someone has a drug problem, Richman said. Paranoia is a classic sign, and it’s usually one of the first indications of drug use, he said.

Meridian Health will host a variety of events for fundraising toward the expansion of MIST. A kickball tournament will take place March 24, and there will be multiple luncheons throughout the year to raise money.

About Savannah Edgens

Savannah is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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