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Art Murals Donated for Children's Psychiatric Unit
Posted on 6/6/2011
Peace River Center to Receive Donataion from Arts Ensemble International
(Lakeland, FL, June 6, 2011) Currently under a Florida law known as the Baker Act, a person may be involuntarily required to receive a mental health evaluation if they are considered to be a danger to themselves or others. This law applies not only to adults, but also to children.
Children experiencing a Baker Act due to a mental health crisis in Polk, Hardee or Highlands Counties are frequently admitted to Peace River Center’s Children’ s Crisis Stabilization Unit (CSU) in Bartow. Although Lakeland Regional Medical Center and Winter Haven Hospital both have psychiatric units, the Peace River Center unit is surprisingly the only unit in the three counties that receives children between the ages of 5 and 10 years old.
“Our unit serves over 400 children each year between the ages of 5 and 17”, said Kirk Fasshauer, Director of Crisis Services at Peace River Center. “The need is so great that we recently made changes to the facility, doubling our bed capacity for children and we are trying to improve the unit to make it less institutional and more kid friendly”, Fasshauer continued.
To many people, making a facility kid friendly might seem as simple as some bright paint, framed art, a few toys and a swing in the yard. But when a child is considered to be “a danger to themselves or others”, typical toys and decorations can become weapons.
For months Fasshauer and other PRC staff have been brainstorming how to improve the unit on a barebones budget. Considering the safety standards that must be followed, one staff member suggested having murals painted on the walls.
“The problem with custom painted murals is the cost”, said Margaret Parry, Peace River Center’s Chief Development Officer. “But miraculously a group of angels disguised as artists have stepped forward to volunteer their talents.”
The group of artists who will paint murals in the psychiatric unit are members of Arts Ensemble International, a not for profit agency that focuses on the healing power of art. Jane Waters-Thomas, Executive Director of AEI said, “Art doesn’t know illness, disease or inability; it only knows of expression and healing.”
Located on the outskirts of Winter Haven, AEI is a working gallery for visual arts of all kinds including a clay studio. But it doesn’t stop there. The organization also includes writing as therapy, and wellness arts such as massage and physical fitness.
The partnership between these two non-profit organizations is a unique one combining the passion of healing art with the needs of children experiencing mental distress.
The artists will paint murals inside the unit and on one exterior wall that faces the children’s outdoor play area. A forty foot long concrete wall defines the play yard which has no shade, little grass and only a basketball hoop and picnic table.
“This wall will receive the gift of a mural and will become the centerpiece of the play yard makeover. The only problem is that the rest of the yard needs so much work. We are hoping that someone else in the community will hear about the mural and come forward with landscaping and play equipment”, said Parry.
Leading the mural project is artist Richard Powers who is well known for Florida landscapes, wildlife and natural scenes. The project scheduled to begin in July, is literally behind closed doors. But when the project is completed an unveiling and artist reception will take place.
“Although inviting the public into a working psychiatric unit will be a challenge, we are going to figure out the logistics so we can share this gift with the community”, said Fasshauer.
Contacts for individuals quoted in this article:
Kirk Fasshauer, Director of Crisis Services, Peace River Center 863-519-3744
Margaret Parry, Chief Development Officer, Peace River Center 863-519-0575 x 1107
Jane Waters-Thomas, Executive Director, Arts Ensemble International 863-293-2700
Written by: Cathy Hatch, Development Manager, Peace River Center 863-670-9856 (cell)
Press tours before and after the project may be arranged by contacting Cathy Hatch.
Peace River Center (PRC) is a private not-for-profit community mental health organization serving the residents of Polk, Highlands, and Hardee Counties for over 60 years.PRC serves families in crisis, functioning children and adults in need as well as the severely and persistently mentally ill. PRC also provides two domestic violence shelters, a Rape Recovery and Resource Center, Substance Abuse Treatment Program, and 24 hour Crisis lines and Intervention to the communities it serves.