New children’s behavioral health unit opens


Representatives of Baptist Health, Wolfson Children’s Hospital, Baptist Behavioral Health and THE PLAYERS Championship Village Inc. (The Village) held a ribbon-cutting Friday, Feb. 9, to open Wolfson Children’s new Behavioral Health and Wellness Unit. The 20-bed unit will double the number of beds available to children and adolescents needing inpatient behavioral health care.

The unit opened to patients Monday, Feb. 12, and will help reduce wait times for behavioral health inpatient beds by 50%. The unit is funded, in part, by a $3 million gift from The Village and a $5 million state appropriation approved by Florida lawmakers and Gov. Ron DeSantis last year.

“Many may not be aware of the scarcity of hospital beds for children and teens who have a critical need for mental and behavioral health care,” said Michael A. Mayo, president and CEO of Baptist Health, which includes Wolfson Children’s Hospital. “Unfortunately, the 66 beds that are available between Jacksonville and Orlando are not enough to meet the growing need for inpatient behavioral health care services in Northeast Florida, and we are grateful to all who have helped us meet the demand for this vitally important care by adding 20 pediatric behavioral health beds.”

The inpatient unit is located on the third floor of Wolfson Children’s Hospital in space previously occupied by the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, which relocated to the Borowy Family Children’s Critical Care Tower in 2022. It joins the 14-bed Larry J. Freeman Behavioral Health Unit on the first floor of the J. Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver Tower and an eight-bed behavioral health pod in the main Wolfson Children’s Emergency Center.

“Wolfson Children’s new Behavioral Health and Wellness Unit will significantly expand our capacity to care for children and adolescents needing hospitalization for behavioral health care,” said Allegra C. Jaros, president of Wolfson Children’s Hospital. “We know the need for behavioral health services is increasing, and our new inpatient unit will not only help save lives, but it will serve as a safe and comforting space for our patients as they receive the care they need. We are grateful to THE PLAYERS Championship Village Inc. and state lawmakers, who recognize the importance of addressing mental health conditions in our most vulnerable community. Wolfson Children’s can continue to provide compassionate and individualized care for our patients and families thanks to their support of this new behavioral health unit.”

The funding from The Village was announced last spring and builds on a relationship between Baptist Health and THE PLAYERS, which extends more than a decade. In addition to the $3 million gift from The Village, THE PLAYERS provided a $1 million gift in 2011 and a $2 million gift in 2016 to benefit child health, wellness and injury prevention programming at THE PLAYERS Center for Child Health at Wolfson Children’s.

Jim Marlier, a board member of THE PLAYERS Championship Village Inc., said, “THE PLAYERS Championship Village has a long history of ensuring that young adults in our community have the right foundation for success and we are hopeful this gift will have a life-changing impact for youth in need of behavioral health services for many years to come.”

Over the past 50 years, THE PLAYERS and The Village have supported more than 300 nonprofit organizations across Northeast Florida. THE PLAYERS Championship 2024 will take place March 12-17.