BayCare Celebrates 50 Years of Behavioral Health Services in Pasco County

August 12, 2022
BayCare teams up with Pasco Sheriff's Office
BayCare Behavioral Health Therapist Leighanne Hanson and Pasco Sheriff’s Detective Jesse Graham team up to serve the community. Their efforts were recognized this year with the Tampa Bay Area Chiefs of Police Foundation Award for the Community Oriented Policing Program of the Year.


Talking about mental health may seem like normal conversation in 2022, but that wasn’t always the case. Go back 50 years and mental health was rarely spoken of in casual conversations and certainly wasn’t a hot topic in the news.

While physical health concerns were important, mental health concerns were often ignored and misunderstood. Many people simply didn’t see the importance of addressing mental health issues.

In Pasco County, however, a small group of concerned community members and leaders recognized a need for mental health and substance use counseling. That small group acted by launching Pasco Mental Health Services (PMHS) in 1971. PMHS began as a small alcohol treatment facility, but by 1975 the National Institute of Health’s Mental Health Directory describes PMHS as a nonprofit providing outpatient and emergency psychiatric care to all ages with no diagnostic restrictions.

Through the years, PMHS underwent several name changes. In 1979, it became the Human Development Center (HDC) of Pasco.

Local businessman Philip Chestnut served on the board of the HDC. “Dr. Thomas Tieman, former medical director and personal friend invited me to join the HDC board of directors, and I soon realized the valuable work being done by this organization,” he said. “It was a community-based behavioral health organization, and without it there would have been a big void in treatment.”

In 1993, HDC became the Harbor Behavioral Health Care Institute. Retired attorney Al Torrence sat on the board of the Harbor and served as its attorney. “As the need for mental health services grew, so did the Harbor. It just wasn’t sustainable at the level and size that was needed in Pasco County,” he recalled.

In 1997, the Harbor board reached out to the Morton Plant Mease board for assistance, and the Harbor became part of BayCare Health System. “We merged the mental health services of the Harbor with the physical health services of BayCare,” Torrence said.

“BayCare provided the step up to the next level of funding and professionalism that was needed to competently provide mental health care in Pasco County,” Torrence added.

The need for services has grown exponentially as the stigma associated with mental health services has shrunk. Collaborating closely with community partners such as law enforcement and schools, the BayCare Behavioral Health (BCBH) team in Pasco County has been able to develop programs to address specific needs of those in Pasco County.

Ed Monti, who has worked in the division for 32 years, said, “(BCBH) has a keen ability to work with community partners to identify shifts in the behavioral health needs and address those changes with innovation, enthusiasm and commitment.”

The Mobile Response Team (MRT) is one example of a newer program that works because of strong partnerships with law enforcement and schools. BayCare’s counselors who are part of the MRT partner with Sheriff’s deputies in Pasco and Hernando counties to respond to calls when someone expresses thoughts of self-harm or is experiencing out-of-control behaviors that could cause harm. This one effort alone has reduced involuntary hospitalizations, also known as Baker Acts, by 98 percent.

“BayCare is proud to have had the opportunity to advance the programs and ideas of those visionary leaders who early on recognized a need for community behavioral health services in Pasco County,” said Gail Ryder, vice president of Behavioral Health Services for BayCare.

In 2021, BayCare received a $3-million grant from the Department of Health and Human Services to fund a Community Engagement Center (CEC) in Pasco County.

With these funds, BayCare Behavioral Health will have the resources to serve a minimum of six hundred additional community-based referrals over the two-year grant period.

“BayCare has a long-standing history of helping the community, individuals and team members,” Ryder said. “As we move forward, and the need continues to be greater and greater our services have to be greater and greater as well.”

BayCare Behavioral Health by the Numbers

  • Largest behavioral health provider in the Tampa Bay area
  • More than 1,400 team members
  • 26 sites across Pasco, Hernando, Hillsborough, Pinellas and Polk counties
  • 320 inpatient hospital beds across Tampa Bay
  • 22,500 inpatient admissions annually
  • 47,000 outpatients annually
  • 300,000 total outpatient visits annually
  • 69,500 patients annually

To learn more about BayCare Behavioral Health, click here.

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