Florida Gulf Coast University is expanding access to mental and behavioral healthcare for underserved populations in Southwest Florida. The university officially broke ground Tuesday on its Student and Community Counseling Center.
The 27,000-square-foot facility will feature a community counseling clinic. The building’s new clinic creates improved access to group counseling, psychoeducation and counseling services to Southwest Florida’s underserved populations, including children, adolescents and families, at little or no cost to them. This training facility will be staffed by advanced graduate student interns under the supervision of licensed faculty supervisors.
“The Student and Community Counseling Center will serve as the hub that uniquely integrates the university’s academics through our counseling department in Marieb College of Health & Human Services and the services through our Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS),” said Robbie Roepstorff, vice chair of the FGCU Board of Trustees. “It is a great example of successfully blending the classroom and the community.”
Vital to the construction of this facility was a gift by David and Alise Bartley, who came to FGCU with the intention of creating a community clinic.
“If there’s a more relentless person on behalf of this project anywhere, I can’t find her because Alise Bartley has taken that position,” said FGCU President Mike Martin. “That passion is expressed in so many ways. This is going to be a tribute and a legacy that you can take pride in long after the many years we all get to serve here.”
Alise Bartley, who is currently a visiting professor in the FGCU counseling department, said, “Integral to the DNA of the community counseling center is our desire to support the Southwest Florida community in times of need, whether it’s through direct counseling and consultation services, training, collaboration, outreach or prevention.”
Bartley announced that the fee for services for community members will be “$25 per hour or whatever you make an hour, whichever is the least.”
Ed Morton, a member of the Board of Governors of the State University System of Florida, said, “FGCU is uniquely positioned to lead mental health and behavioral health, not only in our region, but by setting an example for the entire State University System. When we first argued for this university, many years ago, those of us who were involved advocated for leadership to change the perception of Southwest Florida. So as we’ve changed the perception of Southwest Florida in respect to higher education, so, too, may we change the impression and the dedication and the commitment of this entire state to mental health and behavioral health.”
CAPS will relocate to the new facility. The department is the principal behavioral health counseling service for FGCU’s 15,000 students. CAPS provides four distinct functions on campus: direct counseling and therapy services; training; consultation and collaboration; and outreach and prevention. The Office of Adaptive Services will also be housed in the three-story building. The office’s mission is to enhance access for students, faculty, staff and guests with disabilities by providing effective reasonable accommodations through educating the campus community and promoting equal access and opportunity.
President Martin noted that the project could not have happened without the work of numerous members of the campus and greater community. Also present at the groundbreaking ceremony was Jeff Muddell of the Lee Health Foundation.
“I think everyone in this community is even more acutely aware of the mental health needs, many of which are going unaddressed,” said Muddell. “It’s going to take FGCU and so many community partners to meet the demand of this community. Lee Health is very excited about finding ways to partner with this counseling center, to bring up counselors and clinicians – develop them right here in this community so they can serve and take care of the patients in this community.”
The Student and Community Counseling Center is slated to open in the fall of 2019 and is expected to cost $8 million to construct.
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