History

Serving Polk, Hardee, and Highlands Counties, Peace River Center (PRC) is one of the oldest and largest mental health centers in the State of Florida.  PRC is an accredited, not-for-profit 501(c)(3) community mental health center whose mission is to improve the behavioral health of individuals in our community to achieve our vision of a higher quality of life through treatment, education and advocacy.  We have one of the most comprehensive behavioral health treatment program in Florida and have been in operation for more than 62 years. We are staffed with a culturally diverse workforce employing board certified psychiatrists, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, licensed mental health counselors, licensed clincal social workers, master's and bachelor level practitioners, and direct service providers who receive annual training to enhance their skills. During fiscal year 2010, Peace River Center provided services to 11,243 individuals.  

In the spring of 1947, a team of physicians working under a federal grant examined every child enrolled in the Polk County school system in Florida.  They reported the usual number of physical handicaps, childhood illnesses, and other medical problems.  However, they noted an unusually high number of children with emotional and psychological disturbances.  Local public concern over helping the children led to the formation of the Polk County Guidance Center (later to become Peace River Center) in the fall of 1948.  During its first ten years, the Center served mainly young people of Polk County.  School psychologists, social workers, and psychiatrists tested, evaluated, and counseled children and their families. Out of their work with children and families grew programs designed for adults.  Peace River Center’s biggest single growth period came in 1973 with the passage of the Baker Act, Florida's Mental Health Act, enabling us to establish a community mental health center and provide an option other than the state hospital for non-criminal individuals with mental illness .  Late in the 1970s, with the help of local leaders, Peace River Center established the first domestic violence shelter and now serves three counties.  Since then, other services established include:

  • 1985 - Group Home 1 – Residential services for mentally ill adults
  • 1987 - Forensic – services for mentally ill competency evaluations
  • 1987 - Group Home 2 and Apartments
  • 1994 - Drop-In Center – Social and educational for mentally ill
  • 1990 - Home to Stay (formerly Family Builders) – Reunification of families
  • 1995 - Sebring (Highlands County) Domestic Violence Shelter
  • 1995 - SRT - Short Term Adult Residential Treatment for severe mental illness
  • 2001 - FACT - Florida Assertive Community Treatment for severely mentally ill
  • 2001 - Crisis Response Team – mobile crisis intervention
  • 2002 -  Advisory Boad Established
  • 2003 - Supportive Housing
  • 2005 - Club Success – certified by International Center for Clubhouse Development – client run employment training
  • 2006 - Substance Abuse program
  • 2008 - Mental Health Court
  • 2010 - Substance Abuse Services for Adolescents
  • 2010 - Psychosocial Rehabilitation Services in Wauchula and Lakeland Assisted Living Facilities
  • 2010 - Children's Advocacy Center Outpatient Services in Sebring
  • 2010 - School-based Crisis Counselors in partnership with Polk County School Board
  • 2010 - Transitioned from Family Builders to Home to Stay Program
  • 2010 - Inaugural Junior Advisory Board is formed
  • 2011 - Outpatient Services expanded to Polk Couthy Heath Department
  • 2012 - Outpatient Services expanded to Lakeland Regional Medical Center's Family Health Clinic
  • 2012 - Outpatient Services expanded to Highlands County Health Department
  • 2012 - Club SUCCESS moves to a new location (600 El Paseo)
  • 2013 - Wellness Clinic supporting integrated healthcare
  • 2013 - LIVE with Electronic Health Records
  • 2013 - Community Action Treatment (CAT) Team was established
  • 2014 - Outpatient Services expanded to Haines City location of Polk County Health             Department
  • 2014 - Sobriety Treatment and Recovery Team (START) established


Peace River Center is licensed by the State of Florida Agency For Health Care Administration and has been accredited by the Joint Commission since May, 1993.  Peace River Center’s capacity allows us to offer a variety of services ranging from outpatient counseling to intensive residential and crisis stabilization placements. Clinical service programs are organized under treatment populations and cover the following clinical areas: Crisis Stabilization, Outpatient Counseling, Outpatient Psychiatric, Family Preservation, Psychiatric Medication Management, Case Management, Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Vocational, Adult Residential, Domestic Violence Shelters, Rape Crisis Services, FACT Team, a Mobile Crisis Response Team and a Drop-in Center designed to provide a range of opportunities for individuals to independently develop, operate, and participate in social, recreational, and networking activities.

PRC has been a forerunner in providing wrap-around and recovery services for many years including vocational/supported employment, educational and transportation services, independent living skills, discharge planning, medication management, wellness and recovery, and assistance in obtaining income support and benefits.  Groups, therapy, and service days are provided utilizing the environment in which individuals live. 

PRC’s capacity is enhanced through funding from a variety of sources including individuals, businesses and private foundations; Children’s Services Foundation of Highlands County; Polk County School Board; United Way of Central Florida; Community Foundation of Greater Lakeland; the Able Trust Fund; Department of Children and Families; Polk, Hardee and Highlands Counties Boards of County Commissioners; SAMHSA;  Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence; Florida Council Against Sexual Violence; VOCA;  Florida Department of Health;  Department of Labor; Office of the Attorney General; Department of Elder Affairs; Federal Housing and Urban Development; Medicaid/Medicare; private insurance and patient fees.  PRC has never defaulted on nor had a grant-funded contract terminated.

Peace River Center is governed by a Board of Directors and an Advisory Board which assists PRC with fundraising ideas, planning special events, and increasing community awareness about the services we offer to Polk, Hardee and Highlands Counties. The Advisory Board’s goal is to increase community involvement in the mission and vision of Peace River Center. 

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