Mayor: Serendipity should be good for Florala economy

Published 1:24 am Saturday, January 25, 2014

Florala Memorial Hospital will reopen this spring as a treatment center.

Florala Memorial Hospital will reopen this spring as a treatment center.

A Florida woman’s plan to re-open Florala’s healthcare clinic, and to establish an addiction recovery center in the hospital building should be good for the local economy, Florala Mayor Robert Williamson said.

“This will help individuals with, fill a vacant building, and create jobs in Florala. Plus, we get the clinic back,” Williamson said. “I think it’s positive.”

Earlier this week, Gabriela Engels of Iconsulting, Inc., confirmed that she has been working to develop facilities for drug and alcohol recovery in Florala since 2012. Initially, she planed to use part of the hospital for detox and inpatient care, and to establish transitional homes for men and women. She has already purchased and renovated the home which once was Seymour Gitenstein’s.

But when Dr. Robert Devrnia of Hospital Holdings closed the hospital and the healthcare clinic just after Christmas, she agreed to lease both facilities. Now, she plans to reopen the healthcare clinic by March 1, and the treatment facility by May 1.

The initial announcement has drawn some skepticism, but Williamson said he is encouraging Florala residents to withhold judgment until they have all of the facts.

“Every community has plenty of drug addicts who will not admit they have a problem,” he said. “Here, people are willing to admit have a problem and do something about it. I see it as a positive.”

Williamson said he has met with Engels and that she seems genuinely interested in seeing the community grow.

“We not only get a clinic out of the deal, I think she has a desire to see Florala benefit outside of rehab center,” Williamson said. “This is the kind of people we need to see come to Florala, people who are willing to make an investment here.”

Williamson said people often tell him that Florala is a “diamond in the rough.”

“I think we can be a showcase diamond,” he said. “Maybe this can be a catalyst.”

The treatment facility will be known as Serendipity Healthy Living Community. Services will include an inpatient detox; an outpatient clinic; and a partial hospitalization program for those who don’t need to be fully hospitalized, but who need more supervision and care than a traditional outpatient program.