It's official: First Step of Sarasota Merger Complete

After a nine-month consolidation process, First Step of Sarasota and Coastal Behavioral Healthcare have officially — as of July 1 — begun operations under the First Step name and brand. The core services and programs will still be available to community members in need, and the organization's leadership says the merger will result in stronger, more comprehensive solutions for those with mental health and addiction disorders.

Photo shows First Step’s leadership team, including, front, Gwen M. MacKenzie, and back row from left,  Phillip J. “P.J.” Brooks, Tracey Weeden, Mournira Ragsdale and Vickie Tiutyama.
First Step’s leadership team includes, front, Gwen M. MacKenzie, and back row from left, Phillip J. “P.J.” Brooks, Tracey Weeden, Mournira Ragsdale and Vickie Tiutyama.

The nonprofit agencies shared a similar focus on providing addiction recovery programs and behavioral health services in Sarasota, Manatee, DeSoto, and Charlotte counties. Their staff members noted that they frequently referred clients to each other's services.

By combining operations, First Step will now be able to offer:

  • A more collaborative approach to solving issues related to addiction disorders and behavioral health care.
  • More comprehensive services.
  • More cost-effective operations.
  • Improved efficiency.
  • A better continuum of care for clients.

“We’ve really been working on making sure that — no matter where a client decides to access care or if a change in care is needed — they have a seamless transition to additional services,” said Tracey Weeden, LCSW, First Step’s chief inpatient and residential services officer.

“Now there aren’t any areas of a situation with regard to someone's personal wellness that we can't assist with.” 

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