First Step and Coastal Behavioral Healthcare Officially Merge

The Giving Coast

Pictured: First Step’s leadership team includes (front) Gwen M. MacKenzie and (back, l-r) Phillip J. “P.J.” Brooks, Tracey Weeden, Mournira Ragsdale and Vickie Tiutyama

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 but organizational leaders assert that the merger will result in stronger, more comprehensive solutions for those with mental health and addiction disorders.

The nonprofit agencies share a similar focus of providing addiction recovery programs and behavioral health services in Sarasota, Manatee, DeSoto, and Charlotte counties. 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, provide more comprehensive services, operate more cost-effectively, and improve efficiency while its staff – many of whom note that they were often referring clients to each other prior to the merger – will be better able to ensure a better continuum of care for its 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 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.”

Pictured: First Step’s leadership team includes (front) Gwen M. MacKenzie and (back, l-r) Phillip J. “P.J.” Brooks, Tracey Weeden, Mournira Ragsdale and Vickie Tiutyama

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