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SalusCare, with Lee County's only crisis-stabilization units, remains shuttered by insurance stalemate

Water damage happened in the living areas of the care center. SalusCare in Fort Myers wants to get their buildings fixed and open back up. Flooring, and drywall were pulled out within days of the hurricane to help stop mold from taking over. Now they wait on insurance to finish.
Andrea Melendez
/
WGCU
Water damage happened in the living areas of the care center. SalusCare in Fort Myers wants to get their buildings fixed and open back up. Flooring, and drywall were pulled out within days of the hurricane to help stop mold from taking over. Now they wait on insurance to finish.

Across the hurricane-battered region, there are signs that life is beginning to go back to normal as more and more businesses re-open. But one crucial business that serves a very vulnerable population remains shuttered in Lee County.

The inside of the Lee County’s only designated mental health, crisis-stabilization unit looks no different than it did a week or so after Hurricane Ian hit on Sept. 28: The walls are still torn apart, the rooms are still empty.

Re-construction came to a halt because of a stalemate between wind and flood insurers at the SalusCare Colonial campus.

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To this day, neither the primary-insurance carrier nor the flood adjuster have made any payouts, leaving the campus shuttered. This could leave upwards of thousands of people in the throes of a mental-health crisis in peril.

“It’s been incredibly challenging these past 100 days. We’ve worked diligently and exhaustively to resolve this crisis and to open the doors,” said Stacey Cook, the president and CEO of SalusCare.

Damage from the hurricane is estimated to top one million dollars. The number of people caught in this battle between the insurers grows each day.

Prior to Ian, some 4,000 adults and children in need of emergency psychiatric services were admitted annually. Now they are being sent throughout the region – that’s if there is room. Some are being taxied and shuttled throughout the state, creating a hardship on families, Cook said.

The hurricane, which followed a pandemic, has only increased the need for local crisis-stabilization services, Cook said.

“Mental healthcare is healthcare,” she said. “This is an essential and potentially life-saving service that is not being provided at this time and it is a huge missing link and people are dying as a result.”

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