Flagler Access Center Is Now Flagler ’s Only Mental Health Facility

Flagler County now has a long-awaited mental health facility located at 103 East Moody Boulevard. This space has hosted many activities over the years. It was a law library. Then it became the Bunnell Branch Library in 2004, followed by Sally’s Safe Haven, a then-much needed location for supervised visitations of children by parents under court restrictions which opened in 2014.
The library has since moved to a much smaller location at Marvin’s Garden, and Sally’s Safe Haven was quietly closed in September, its operations shifted, two days a week, to the public library in Palm Coast.
Flagler Access Center, a mostly government funded behavioral health center operated by SMA Healthcare will focus on adults’ mental health and drug addiction, and individuals may walk in and seek help.
They may not necessarily get the help they’ll need immediately. But they’ll be directed to available resources. And for Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies, they’ll bring their Baker Acts–which can number three to five per shift, according to the sheriff–to this new location, as opposed to one on Justice Lane.
“It’s our hope in the Sheriff’s Office that with this facility and the partnership between state, local government and private partners, that the number of Baker Acts can be reduced, people can get the help that they need,” and suicide investigations reduced, Staly said.
Based on the latest figures available, Flagler’s suicide rate, at 20.9 per 100,000, placed it 20th in the state in 2020. Union and Holmes counties were first and second, with rates exceeding 35 per 100,000, but both are very small counties that combined had 12 suicides. Putnam was third, with 22 suicides in 2020, or a rate of 31.6 per 100,000. Flagler County had 25 suicides in 2020. Flagler was 24th in the state in 2019, eighth in 2018 (when it had record gun deaths in the county). What is unquestionable, however, is that it is inaccurate anymore to refer to Flagler as having anywhere near a leading suicide rate in the state.
“The goal of this partnership is to seek to eliminate some of the barriers to mental health access for citizens of Flagler County,” Ivan A. Cosimi, chief executive officer of SMA Healthcare, said at the ribbon cutting ceremony in January, citing Flagler Health+ (the organization behind Flagler Hospital in St. Augustine) as another partner that’ll have a presence at the center. The county’s transportation department will be providing transport to individuals’ appointments at the center, free of charge. Cosimi said substance abuse disorders and mental health issues will be a focus.
Cosimi said the Legislature appropriated $275,000 for the center for this year alone. Cosimi has to lobby legislators to ensure that funding continues. The $275,000 is in addition to other funds SMA is budgeting for the center, where six staffers will be located. Petito said the county still has $120,000 in federal aid dollars that could be spent on mental health services.
Palm Coast mayir David alfin was inable to attend that ceremony but sent a statment of support: “We are proud to have that facility being a first step in addressing the mental health deficits that we suffer here throughout the county and with the city,” Alfin said. “I certainly want the county to know that we support their efforts in looking for solutions for mental health for the future.”