Flagler County has a pronounced need for treatment facilities for drug addicts, especially residential treatment. This morning, Dr. Duke Vinson, previously associated with a drug-rehab facility in St. Augustine that closed, said he was preparing to open an in-patient facility in place of what used to be the Flagler County Sheriff’s Operations Center off State Road 100 in Bunnell. The facility would actually be little more than a move–from St. Augustine to Bunnell.
The operations center came to be known as “Mold-Ops” as mold issues developed there, causing many employees to blame the mold for numerous sicknesses and forcing the sheriff to abandon the building in 2018 and occupy temporary facilities to this day. The county never certified the safety of the building after that, and sold it at a significant loss in 2020.
“That was a building that was presented to us out of many that was available,” Vinson told WNZF’s David Ayres on this morning’s Free For All Fridays show, “and we bought it from–which we already bought it, or in contract with, it was from a private seller. I’m not sure–well, I know it’s not a police station anymore.”
Vinson had first looked at buying the former Bunnell City Hall complex, another facility that became plagued with water intrusion and mold, and that city government had to quickly evacuate for the safety of its employees. Bunnell City Manager Alvin Jackson said Vinson had contacted the city around January with interest in buying the property. But by then it had already been in the process of selling to another bidder. So Vinson was redirected to the old operations center building, which Gary Roberts had bought, cleaned up and listed at one point for over $3.95 million. It is no longer listed. But the sale has not yet been recorded.
Flagler County Commissioner Joe Mullins introduced Vinson on the radio show this morning as being part of a treatment facility out of “Atlanta and North Carolina, they got facilities all over the southeast,” and that it “picked Flagler County over all of the counties in Florida, the Northeast Florida region and the northwest.” Neither claims are correct, as Vinson himself would say moments later.
Mullins’s claim that the county was somehow chiefly instrumental in bringing the facility to Bunnell also appears to be another one of Mullins’s frequent exaggerations or fabrications. (The timing of his announcement, before the sale of the building is final, is also suspect: Mullins is in a difficult re-election fight because of revelations of his abuses of his authority and insults toward law enforcement in June, and because of his abrasive record before that. He has been seeking to change the subject with cheerier headlines, most of them his own.)
“He misspoke a little bit,” Vinson said of Mullins. “It wasn’t just any all over Florida. We were very selective on where we open up because we want to have commitment from the community and a need to open up, and Flagler County went straight to the front row when it came to the need and commitment by everyone.”
He did not refer to any facilities in Atlanta or North Carolina, though he is a native of Columbus, Ga. (he referred to a facility he was involved in in Augusta, where Mullins is from. It’s called Bluff Plantation). Vinson said he had support from the county, from Bunnell and from the sheriff.
Vinson had been working with Bunnell city government county government staff “for about the last year trying to find a location different from theirs in St. Johns County, where they were having to move from,” Adam Mengel, the county’s planning director, said. Vinson and his representatives would have discussions with Jorge Salinas, the deputy county administrator about suitable locations, but eventually attention turned to Bunnell and the former operations center building. At that point, the county no longer had jurisdiction. “Dr. Jackson may have been involved more so is what I also understand,” Mengel said, “particularly with the old sheriff’s operations center, with that being in Bunnell. That would really end up not concerning the county since we don’t have jurisdiction there.”
That may also explain why even other county commissioners were neither aware nor involved in the initiative. “They had not talked to me,” Commissioner Andy Dance said this afternoon, though County Administrator Heidi Petito, he said, had been in communications with Vinson. But, Dance said, since Vinson’s operation will be a for-profit company that will not be seeking or getting county government incentives, there was no county commission involvement. “It’s a for-profit entity, as I understand, that’s moving location,” he said.
Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly said he may have had a conversation with Vinson, but couldn’t be sure, since he talks to innumerable people, and wouldn’t necessarily recognize him if he saw him.
“Yesterday Commissioner Mullins calls me to tell me that he was going to announce on WNZF an addiction treatment facility that’s going to go into the old operations center, as we know as Mold Ops, and I said, really?” Staly said this morning, underscoring his incredulous reaction. “I said, ‘You’re going to have patients in there, around the clock, you’re going to certify that the building is safe? Because the county couldn’t do that for my employees, when I asked them to put it in writing to me for my employees. Since that request by the county, they’ve sold the building. Now I guess it’s a private sale. But I don’t know what a private individual has done to that building. I haven’t been in it since we vacated. Personally I’d question the viability of that building, but if private business wants to go in there and has done their due diligence and they believe their employees and patients would be fine, then that’s great, it brings a business back to Flagler County with jobs and needed treatment beds. I can tell you I would not put my employees back in there, but the conditions could be different.”
Staly stressed that his opinion of the building has nothing to do with his support for more treatment options, which he has championed all his years as sheriff. (The sheriff’s jail happens to be the only de-facto in-patient treatment center for medically assisted addiction recovery in the county.) Of Vinson, he said, “I can’t tell you if I spoke to him or not, but I have been an advocate for more treatment beds in Flagler County. Whether or not I personally told him that, I couldn’t tell you.”
Vinson kept referring to his company in the plural, prompting Ayres to ask: “Who is ‘we’?”
“We is Healthcare Alliance of North American and this company has other facilities with different names,” Vinson said. “It’s always the name of the community because when we go into a community we embed ourselves, and I’ve worked in and out of the Daytona, St. Augustine, Panama City area, so I am part of Florida for the most part.” He said he would bring 50 to 100 jobs.
It’s not yet clear whether the projected facility would draw on insured and private-pay patients, or whether it will also accept poorer patients and those on Medicare, which is the predominant need in Flagler. The former Vince Carter Sanctuary in Bunnell was run as an exclusively private-pay facility several years ago, but couldn’t make a go of it as such. Vinson suggested that with certain grants, which could underwrite the cost of those who can’t pay, “we’re there to help the community.”
Vinson was associated with the St. Augustine Rehab Center, also known as Pearl of the Sea Retreat, at 7601 South A1A. The facility was a high-end, private-pay rehab center. The St. Augustine facility was licensed by the Department of Children and Families to provide detox care and in-patient addiction treatment. The license is still active, but the facility closed over six months ago (several of its employees are now working in Flagler) and the property owners, Anita and James Henslin, operating under the name Ocean Romance LLC, sold te property in June for $6.3 million, according to St. Johns County Property Appraiser’s records.
Vinson 15 months ago was announced as group CEO for The Ranch Pennsylvania in Wrightsville, Pa., a mental health and substance abuse treatment facility there. “Dr. Vinson will oversee full P&L responsibility for The Ranch Pennsylvania and satellite services, strategic planning and overall revenue growth and program development,” a public relations release stated in April 2021. But “he is no longer CEO here,” an administrative staffer at The Ranch said today.
A somewhat skeptical Ayres asked Vinson about the uses of the 36,000 square foot building. “It’s a big building, gosh, I mean, it’s a lot,” Ayres said. “So what are you going to remodel it remodel it and repurpose it to be–what’s your vision? What’s it going to be? Will people stay there? It’s going to be like a hospital?” (Until the early 2000s, it had been Florida Memorial Hospital, which then became Florida Hospital Flagler at the more eastern end of SR100.)
“Exactly,” Vinson said. “From what I understand it was a hospital, then a sheriff’s office. And now it’s going to be back to a healthcare facility. Yes. And it’s going to be refitted to fit our needs for a medical detox residential program that is going to be cutting edge, and I can pretty much guarantee it’s going to be the best destination for addiction treatment in Florida.” He said “it’s going to be up to 60” people that could receive treatment at one time. He did not disclose the buying price other than that “it’s in the millions.”
Jackson, the Bunnell city manager, doesn’t foresee regulatory hurdles ahead and welcomed the prospect of an addiction-recovery facility. “I knew they were looking but I didn’t know they had closed,” Jackson said this morning. “I don’t know much about the details but it will create jobs, and medically created jobs, which is right in line with the MedNex.” MedNexus is the University of North Florida’s new medical-education expansion in Palm Coast, alongside that of Jacksonville University.
“The building is pretty much ready to go, they would have just touched base with staff to make sure the zoning was appropriate, or if they had to get a variance they’d probably have to find out about that,” Jackson said.
Been There says
The old County Courthouse had black mold creeping down nearly every wall, the floorboards were squishy with rot, but it was able to be rehabbed sufficiently enough for a K-12 school. However, the old sheriff’s op building, with a tiny little bit of mold and no proof of toxic hazard, had to vacated and abandoned never to be reoccupied by Sheriff Staly’s staff because someone got a rash and then those tough guys and gals who promised to protect and serve came down with a case of hysterics. We know this was political and Flagler taxpayers paid the price.
Now we’re spending MORE money to build Staly his own taj mahal? Corrupt politicians, all of them. We can thank the current Commissioners, Sheriff Staly, his whiny staff, and ex Administrator, Jerry Cameron.
This is BS. If you can put patients in there, you can put the Sheriff’s op center back in there.
Pamela Roberts says
This building was fully remediated and the air quality tests were performed. I have the paperwork to prove this. In all actuality, there was very little mold to remediate. Not sure what the fuss was all about.
As for Joe Mullins, he has had absolutely nothing to do with the possible sale of the building. What makes a person say something that?
We sincerely hope that the building will be used in a manner that serves the community. Just setting the record straight.
Regardless of all the nonsense around this, it is something we need here. We also need more homeless resources. We need domestic violence resources. A rape crises center. And not in Bunnell. In Palm Coast. It’s nothing to be ashamed of and it won’t kill your home value. We need to help those that need it and stop keeping these issues silent. It’s not that BS “woke” people use as the fad word. It’s call being human. Being decent. Being kind. Being caring. I know hate is rampant right now but we can’t all have lost our humanity. If we did, then I don’t know what to make of this world anymore.
Sue Urban says
We have a Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence center. It is called Family Life Center 4721 E Moody Blvd Ste 503, Bunnell, FL 32110 Phone: 386-437-7747 website: http://www.familylifecenterflagler.org/
Not much cause to celebrate in this, no matter how many jobs it brings to Flagler… just my opinion.
BTW, for whatever reason this article reminded me of the plight of those homeless folks that were living over by the library… whatever happened to those people? Are those folks living off I-95 now? Or did they get help?… Do I even need to ask?
Oh, yeah… https://flaglerlive.com/136540/homelss-scatter/ and https://flaglerlive.com/135674/operations-center-library/.
Hey, while I was doing a quick search on the topic here I can across this one..
… which for some reason I found rather interesting.
I’d forgotten most of these articles.
One interesting side note. I had mentioned in the past that I wondered what the bond rating of PC would be… turns out Flagler supposedly has a AA rating.
Oh, and thanks FlaglerLive.com for the good work over all these years.
Willy James says
Once again Joe Mullins attempts to take credit for something that he had no part in. I guess when you know your days are numbered as a County Commissioner, you do whatever you can to get the stink off your lying ass. I understand that even the girls at “Biggins” in Daytona, are over you. Joe, let’s face it, the public is on to you. You are nothing but a turd! Here is something to remember about being a turd. You can try and try as hard as you want, but you can’t polish a turd. I thinks it is time for you to head back to Georgia. I’m sure that the FHP will be more than happy to escort to the Georgia-Florida state line.
ULTRA MAGA says
Mullins! He LIES like Biden( the Southern Border, It’s Putin’s Price Increase, America is NOT in a Recession, I did NOT talk to my son about his business,etc,etc)! Time for a RINO Mullins to Leave Flagler County!
Did we ever get that check from Mexico ????? Now that’s a lie !!!!!
Robert Joseph Fortier says
He sure is one insane dude…that’s for sure.
And I concur that he really should move back to Georgia and stop making drama that the rest of us really don’t need. He’s nuts…simply put.
Joe Mullins is an embarrassment to himself and the county, but there are people that will vote for him. Party over people is the name of the game here,
No way could it be used for a County department but it’s perfectly good for a medical facility? Ummm.
I just took the words out of my mouth. Let’s put a bunch is addicts in there whom probably already have underlying health conditions along with open sores which should be treated in a sanitary facility.
SMFH It wasn’t ok for sheriffs employees how is it any good for anyone else! Plow the whole damm thing down and build a mental health facility. I mean Flagler loves to waste money anyway.
Purveyor of Truth says
I listened to this announcement on “Free for All Friday”. You could distinctly hear David Ayres skepticism, and likely legitimately so.
Is this Mullins’ version of an “October surprise”, while he senses he’s down in the polls?
On the radio, it sounded as if Duke Vinson, the point of contact for the clinic coming to Flagler, was reading from a Mullins script, trying to sell constituents on a fairy tale that the commissioner is Mother Theresa incarnate.
Our area could benefit from such a facility, but let’s not get out over our skis thinking we need Mullins.
This story needs further examination.
Vote Pennington on August 23rd.
Oh yeah, and Ms. Pennington should request equal time on WNZF.
Mary Fusco says
Purveyor, I listened to this also. Both Mullins and Vinson were tripping over what they were saying. Mr. Ayres did a great job. Vinson is just another one of Mullins’ Georgia buddies.
DMFin Florida says
Has anyone looked into the company that wants to develop the facility? It is my understanding that it is the same organization that ran the high-end for profit residential treatment facility (Pearl of the Sea) in St. Augustine that financially failed and closed. Food for thought. I know someone who worked there are left due to the poor management of the facility. Treatment centers are needed, but at what cost?
Michele G says
If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it must be a duck
This sounds like a scam, and on first listen,sounds like a scam, and reads like a scam, so it must be a scam.
So many contradictory things being said. Has the Flager County Health Department been advised about this alleged facility. What licenses would they need to open a medical addiction rehab facility with in patient beds?
This Dr. Vinson sounds like charlatan to me, just my opinion, based on his sketchy past and movement from one place to another that failed and now this. I hate to say it but Mullins is a fool as are so many of those in this country that pretend to be somebody they aren’t.
This project will fall apart upon deeper inspection. Give it the sunlight treatment and see what happens.
Phyllis Downes says
I assure you, The Vince Carter sanctuary is still going strong. The difference is it is a non-profit organization. SMA Healthcare is the company running the facility (formally Stuart-Marchman-ACT). They have several programs to help the women in the W.A.R.M. Program pay for their stay along with a sliding scale. Depending on their income, they could pay as little as $10 a day for their stay in the facility. It is located at 301 Justice Ln., Bunnell, FL 32110. It is a wonderful program that allows women to have their small children ages birth through five years of age stay with them in the facility. There is also a daycare on campus that the children go to during the day while the moms are in their classes. Don’t write them off just because they are no longer a high priced facility.