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Columbia County Observer

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Lake Shore Hospital Authority

Razor Wire Around Meridian’s Proposed Mental Health Facility At Lake Shore Hospital? How Did We Get There?

Noah Walker looking for "crazy" experiences.

Razor wire fence with headline: LSHA Bd member Don Kennedy has the answer for security at Meridian -- 12 feet of razor wire
Photo: Daniel Bernard via Unsplash | Columbia County Observer graphic

More LSHA stories are here.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Lately, the Lake Shore Hospital Authority has been under scrutiny. Noah Walker, the newly anointed Lake City Mayor in waiting, has been dog-whistling behavioral health and mental illness. He has had some help from his friend and fellow Rotarian, Shawn Holmgren.

During last Thursday’s County 5 workshop, the issue of security at Meridian once again came to the forefront. Shawn Holmgren, a fellow Rotarian of Mr. Walker, made some comments that he attributed to Mr. Walker. What happened at the County 5 will be covered in Part II.

Mr. Walker's first foray into the goings-on at the Authority and Meridian happened on June 10, 2024, four years after CHS announced that it was buying out its lease and leaving the Authority when Mr. Walker attended an LSHA meeting for the first time ever.

June 10, 2024: Noah Walker Addressed the Governor’s LSHA Boad
While at the LCMC he was looking for "crazy" experiencies.

Mr. Walker told the Board he worked for the Lake City Medical Center for six years, claiming that while he was employed there, one of his favorite things to do was "to go to the cafeteria, either during breakfast or during lunch, and sit down with a random nurse – typically the older nurses.”

Mr. Walker said he liked to hear about their experiences during their careers.

He said, “One of the questions I would always ask would be, ‘What was the craziest experience?’ It's the craziest experience in healthcare.”

Mr. Walker estimated that “90% of those answers were working in a medical psych unit or a mental health unit.”

Mr. Walker expanded, “It would be fist fighting with patients, aggravated and violent patients, temporarily held over patients, and Baker Act, breaking up rape, having excrement thrown on them, et cetera, et cetera.”

Mr. Walker on Security at Meridian and the “Butt Naked”

Noah Walker
Noah Walker (file)

Talking about security at Meridian, Mr. Walker said, “They’ve given you assurances that it will be a lockdown facility and that nobody will be released onto the streets.”

With Lake DeSoto at the back door of Meridian, if it occupies the vacant hospital, it was not clear if Meridian would be “releasing” its clients into the lake.

Mr. Walker continued, “What assurances have they [Meridian] made in regards to the people they can't overwhelm who make it to the door? Because that happens in healthcare, and those people will be butt naked.”

Not far from the proposed Meridian home at Lake Shore is a small handicapped accessible playground financed by the Rotary.

Mr. Walker said he loved to take his family, he has a little girl, to the playground. He intimated that the playground would no longer be safe after “a violent altercation” between a nurse and a patient, asking, “What happens then.”

Mr. Walker’s Pièce de Résistance: The Dept. of Corrections (DOC)

Meridian Admin bldg in Gainesville
The Meridian campus in Gainesville is immaculate, unfenced, and not surrounded by razor wire or any wire. Mismanagement and foot dragging by Meridian CEO Don Savoie and LSHA Manager Dale Williams has led to tens of thousands of dollars in wasted money, misinformation, confusion and bad feelings. Quality of care was never mentioned by any official other than Bd. member Lorry Chancy.

Mr. Walker continued, catching everyone by surprise. “I'll share something else with you guys. During a Rotary presentation to our 7:00 AM club, Meridian came and this is really kind of why I'm here. They did a presentation on what they do in the community, their mental health response unit, what they were looking to do at the hospital. Part of that was a DOC contract, a Department of Corrections where they would bring in part of their incarcerated mentally ill and house them here for treatment.”

Mr. Walker said, “There's a, there's a big stigma around mental health, and personal mental health is extremely important.”

Mr. Walker concluded, "I think that Meridian may be the wrong play for downtown.”

Finding quality care for the mentally ill is a nationwide problem. Without adequate mental health facilities, many of the mentally ill are put in prison or local jails. At one time, many in Columbia County thought Meridian could fill the bill. Local law enforcement has been in favor of Meridian at Lakeshore.

Meridian never said to this reporter or at any public meeting that the criminally violent would be housed in the proposed Lake Shore facility.

Board Member Lory Chancy Blows Her Own Dog Whistle:
"There will be sex offenders there."

Trustee Lory Chance commented, "Noah. I very much agree with you. We have a playground here. You're not gonna take your kids where child molesters might get to 'em. We also don't want to draw all the drug dealers, and that comes along with mental health hospitals, just sayin’, okay.”

Board Member Don Kennedy: to the rescue with razor wire

LSHA Bd member Don Kennedy
LSHA Board member Don Kennedy

Trustee Kennedy said he vetted Meridian, “I walked the streets of downtown talking to business owners, property owners. I have spoke to the clergy. I have spoke to the politicians. I have spoke to law enforcement, both the city, the county. I have spoke to the courts.”

Mr. Kennedy continued, “Before I finally put my signature on Meridian, I will assure you that they will have the tightest security. When I met with Mr. Savoy, he assured me that their security would be tight. If it requires that we put a 12-foot razor wire fence around the complex, we may even require them to do that.”

Mr. Kennedy thanked Mr. Walker for mentioning the Department of Corrections contract. Mr. Kennedy said he thought those DOC inmates were treated in Raiford and other places, calling those inmates “mentally inbalanced.”


The lack of effective leadership in Columbia County/Lake City continues. The Governor's illegally constituted LSHA Board continues to be ineffective and uninformed. LSHA Manager Dale Williams has not been up to the task.

Meridian’s CEO, Don Savoie, has let both Meridian and its clients down. His lack of hands-on local involvement and unavailability for Authority Board meetings has allowed mental health dog whistles to flourish at the expense of those needing care.

And now you know where the 12 feet of razor came from.

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