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Kevin Lewis didn’t start out looking for a job in mental health/substance abuse treatment, but once he became immersed in it, he was all in.

“I was working on an internship at a state alcoholic treatment center while pursuing my master’s degree [from Florida State University], and I found that the patients were different than what I’d expected,” he says. “They were bright and they had upside potential, and they came from all walks of life.

#27 SalusCare Inc. chief executive Kevin Lewis

“I was instantly enamored with that, and with being involved in treating them.”

That was 30 years ago.

These days, Lewis maintains  his personal mandate as chief executive of SalusCare Inc., the Lee County-based organization that sprang from the official merger earlier this year of Lee Mental Health Center Inc. (founded in 1969) and Southwest Florida Addiction Services (founded in 1980).

The merger talks between the individual boards of directors were initiated in October 2011, and the transaction progressed when the decision was made that patient needs could be better met by a joint entity.

SalusCare now serves nearly 17,000 individuals yearly from seven locations in Lee County and two more in Hendry County. It projects gross revenue of $29.84 million for the current fiscal year, a 6.2 percent jump from $28.11 million last year.

Lewis joined the combined company from the Southwest Florida Addiction Services side, where he’s spent the bulk of his time since arriving in Florida from his native Michigan in 1977.

Both he and Lee Mental Health Center’s top man, David Winters, are graduates of Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich., but they never knew each other in school and weren’t aware of the shared background until it came up in conversation at a local function a few years ago.

“The hope is that through exposure to what we do, you’ll find a fit,” Lewis says, referring to ongoing challenges to maintain a workforce with the skills necessary to succeed in the field. The people who experience it never let it go. Our medical director has been with us 31 years. He took a part-time job and found an affinity and discovered things that he’d never planned on.”

An increased necessity for preventative care came out of the Great Recession, claims Lewis, who says times of economic hardship tend to make people concentrate less on non-emergency concerns. Also, he says integration with other healthcare providers will be increased going forward, after years of more silo-like operations.

“Ten years ago, everyone was set up separately,” he says. “Five years ago, the care was parallel. Today and going forward, we’re much more integrated. I can envision sitting at a table making patient treatment plans with all parties involved. The care will be much more effective, and costs will be lower.”

—Lyle Fitzsimmons



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