A History of Lakeview Center

Lakeview Center's origins date back to May 11, 1954 when Pensacola civic leaders opened a small basement clinic chartered to "provide psychological and psychiatric services for children with personality, emotional or social difficulties."

With the passage of the 1963 Community Mental Health Act, federal funding became available for the construction and staffing of mental health centers in cities across the United States. The legislation reflected a new optimism in mental health care and dramatically changed the treatment of people with mental illnesses, placing an emphasis on rehabilitation instead of institutionalization.

Within three years, the board of directors for the Escambia County Guidance Clinic developed plans with local hospitals, advocacy groups and state agencies to open a comprehensive community mental health center in Pensacola. Using federal grants, local matching funds and land donated by Baptist Hospital, the three-building facility was completed in July 1968. On Jan. 24, 1969, the Clinic's name was changed to the Community Mental Health Center of Escambia County.

The 1970s initiated a period of rapid growth for the Center as new needs were identified and funding became available. Among the additions: alcohol treatment and rehabilitation services, a clinic for learning disabilities, drug abuse treatment services, a 24-hour telephone crisis counseling service, halfway houses for people returning from state psychiatric hospitals, specialized programs for adolescents, and a sexual violence program.

In 1982 the organization was re-named Lakeview Center to reduce stigma and reflect its diversity of services. Over the years there were many significant changes including:

  • The 1984 merger that created Southeastern Vocational Services followed by the 1986 creation of Gulf Coast Enterprises.
  • The 1987 opening of a Crisis Stabilization Unit to provide short-term inpatient care to people experiencing mental health emergencies.
  • The 1990 signing of a contract to manage West Florida Community Care Center on behalf of the state of Florida.
  • The 1996 affiliation with Baptist Health Care, which made Lakeview Center responsible for the operation of The Friary in Gulf Breeze and Avalon Center in Milton.
  • The signing of a 2001 state contract designating Lakeview Center as the lead agency in a network responsible for foster care and related services for children experiencing abuse or neglect in Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton counties. FamiliesFirst Network was created to meet this responsibility.
  • The January 31, 2003 retirement of Dr. Morris L. Eaddy, the clinical psychologist who became the organization's chief executive in 1965. Under Eaddy's leadership, what was a 15-employee clinic evolved into one of the nation's most comprehensive human services organizations and the employer of more than 1,700 persons. Replacing Dr. Eaddy as Lakeview Center's president and chief executive officer was Gary Bembry, a certified public accountant who joined Lakeview as its chief financial officer in 1997.
  • The 2012 opening of the three-story 48,600 square-foot Melba B. Meyer Children's Services Center, which allows Lakeview Center to offer all of its outpatient services for children in a single location.
  • In January 2016 Gulf Coast Enterprises (GCE) and Vocational Services (SVS) transitioned into Global Connections to Employment, Inc. (GCE) functioning as an affiliate of Lakeview Center rather than a division. The change was spurred by a growth in operations as well as diverse business lines.
  • On December 1, 2016 Allison Hill succeeded Gary Bembry as Lakeview Center's third president and CEO.
  • In February of 2019 Lakeview Center expanded behavioral health services by entering into an affiliation agreement with Chautauqua Healthcare Services (CHCS) in Defuniak Springs. On March 31 about 100 new team members came onboard as Lakeview staff. The affiliation expanded Lakeview’s footprint to provide comprehensive behavioral health services to more residents in Northwest Florida, specifically Walton County.
  • Global Connections to Employment (GCE) relocated to its larger corporate office building in June 2019. The Lakeview Center affiliate began in 1986 and has grown to be one of the largest employers of people with disabilities under the AbilityOne© Program. At this time, they have approximately 1,700 employees.
  • In January 2020, Lakeview Behavioral Health became the first Florida member to join the Hazelden Betty Ford Patient Care Network (PCN) to expand addiction treatment services in Northwest Florida.
  • On October 1, 2021, Lakeview Center officially separated from its parent organization Baptist Health Care following a 25-year relationship as one organization. Moving forward, the two entities remain trusted partners of the communities they serve with improved focuses on their respective medical/health care and human services supports.