Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lake Shore Hospital Authority

LSHA: On the Docket – Meridian Behavioral Health. Will Political Expediency Stand In the Way of Common Sense & Quality Behavioral Care?

LSHA trustees Lory Chancy and Don Kennedy
Columbia County Observer photos and graphic

More LSHA stories are here.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Tonight, January 30, at 5:15 pm, the illegally constituted Gov. DeSantis Lake Shore Hospital Authority Board may once again try and decide to give the vacated Shands at Lake Shore Hospital to Meridian Behavioral Health Services of Gainesville.

While the enabling legislation of the Authority specifically sets out that one Authority Board member "shall [must] be a physician to engaged in the practice of medicine at the Lake Shore Hospital," Hospital Authority Manager Dale Williams, the Gov.'s Board, and the two most recent Hospital Authority attorney's, Fred Koberlein, Jr. and Todd Kennon, have totally ignored the statutory requirement. Neither Attorney would talk about it.

The Governor's Board has steadfastly refused to ask the Florida Atty. General for an opinion regarding the necessity of following the legislative mandate of a physician board member.

The enabling legislation of the Authority authorizes the board to have seven members, including the physician practicing at the hospital. Beginning in September 2020, the Authority Board began operating with four members; there was a doctor on the Board until Dr. Mark Thompson resigned in mid-2021. Unable to appoint a physician “practicing at the hospital” to the board, Governor DeSantis appointed republican operative Don Kennedy to the Authority.

The Authority Board had been operating with four members until December 15, 2023, when the Governor appointed former democrat Jerry Bullard to the LSHA. Mr. Bullard converted to Republicanism in February 2017.

During Mr. Bullard's first meeting on January 8, 2024, he wasn't asked to introduce himself, and he didn't.

With long-time board member Lory Chancy opposing the transfer of the vacated hospital to Meridian, one need not have been a rocket scientist to understand why the Governor appointed Mr. Bullard to the Authority. While barely speaking a word, Mr. Bullard has been the neutralizing force against Trustee Chancy.

The Masons

One hold-up regarding the transfer of the hospital to Meridian has been the ownership of a parking lot owned by the Masons and donated to the Authority by them for the Authority's exclusive use while the hospital was in operation.

The hospital ceased operation in October 2020; it could not find a tenant. Meridian agreed to take the hospital and operate a psychiatric hospital. That was not the type of hospital the Masons had in mind, and they advised the Authority that the parking lot was for sale for $500,000.

Letters of Support: Where Are They?

On November 10, 2023, Representative Chuck Brannan sponsored a $3.5 mil legislative appropriation for Meridian to renovate the hospital building.

The appropriation is absent from the Health Care Appropriation Sub-Committee appropriations list.

Authority Manager Dale Williams said the Authority has no letters of support for Meridian to expand into the vacated hospital.

In numerous appearances in front of the Authority Board, Meridian CEO Don Savoie has never presented any letters of support.

For the past two years, your reporter has been searching for folks who would recommend Meridian for care. No one has stepped forward except CEO Savoie.


Tonight, the Governor’s Authority Board may decide what to do. This decision will affect people’s lives.

It will be interesting to see if political expediency will stand in the way of common sense, reason, and quality behavioral care.

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