The Centers, SMA merger final

The Centers is shown on Southwest 60th Avenue in Ocala, Fla. on Wednesday, August 5, 2020. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2020.

Home » Business
Posted July 23, 2021 | By Max Russell, Special to the Ocala Gazette

[Bruce Ackerman/OG]

After nearly a year of collaboration and due diligence, The Centers, a long-time provider of substance abuse and mental health services in Marion County, officially merged with Daytona Beach-based SMA Healthcare on July 1, a joint decision by the boards of both organizations.

The addition of Marion County brings SMA’s service area to a total of five east/central Florida counties, including Flagler, Putnam, St. Johns and Volusia. All operate under the SMA Health brand.

“We’re excited to become a part of meeting this community’s need for expanded behavioral health services,” said SMA CEO Ivan Cosimi. “Access is front and center for us to work on, and capacity is a concern in some areas.”

Cosimi, who spent part of his early career at Marion-Citrus Mental Health—the forerunner of The Centers—says bringing SMA to the area feels like a “homecoming.”

He confirmed that the merged organization will continue to provide the same array of crisis, residential, outpatient, and community-based services, and that current clients should not notice any material change in services they receive.

“On July 1, all we did was change the signs and badges,” he said, adding that SMA plans to make a measured transition to its administrative systems, including medical records.

One significant immediate addition is a 24/7 hotline, which replaces the previous Monday through Thursday, business-hours-only line. The enhanced offering aims to improve response times and ease access to services.

The Centers’ children’s crisis stabilization unit also represents a new addition to SMA’s overall complement of services.

Cosimi said that SMA has planned some major capital improvements for the 60th Avenue campus, including new roofing and renovations and upgrades.

“We’re excited about all the possibilities to expand and improve services,” he said. “The staff shares some of that enthusiasm. They’re feeling a sense of optimism, and that’s a good start.”

Robin Lanier will continue to head the management team as SMA’s Vice President for Marion County Services. She was appointed to that leadership position in January.

As noted in earlier reporting, the Marion County provider employs more than 400 people, sees about 15,000 clients each year, and has a budget of more than $25 million and is headquartered at 5664 SW 60th Avenue.

Both SMA Health and the newly merged The Centers are non-profit organizations and have been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, a national quality of care review organization. CARF notes, “Providers that meet our standards have demonstrated their commitment to being among the best available.”

The Centers was founded in 1972 as Marion-Citrus Mental Health Center. SMA dates back to 1960, when the Stewart Marchman Center and Act Corporation combined to form Stewart Marchman-Act.

newspaper icon

Support community journalism

The first goal of the Ocala Gazette is to deliver trustworthy local journalism so corruption, misinformation and abuse are not hidden from the public or unchallenged.

We count on community support to continue this important work. Please donate or subscribe: