Getting You On the Right Path

Behavioral Health Navigators Steer Polk Residents to the Right Resources


The first step toward overcoming a mental health or behavioral problem is acknowledging the problem and seeking treatment. Unfortunately, finding the right resources that can provide that help can be challenging. Peace River Center has introduced a new program providing guidance for those seeking care.

The Behavioral Health Navigation Program has been established to make it easier for people to receive the treatment they need for issues related to mental health, substance abuse, and behavioral problems. 

“The Behavioral Health Navigation system is designed to assist individuals who are having a hard time navigating the healthcare system or who are just not sure where to start their journey,” says Behavioral Health Navigation Supervisor Cristina Aguilar. 

“This service is free of charge to anyone in Polk County whether they’re an adult or a child.”

The program, which was launched in January, has been able to provide guidance to 468 individuals so far. When people contact the program, a navigator will conduct a short conversation to determine what the individual is going through and what type of services they require. 

“It’s very person-specific depending on what their situation is,” explains Aguilar. “Once we know what they’re looking for, we can explain and do a little bit of educating on what the process of obtaining those services is going to be for them, and how they can get that process started.”

Because the Behavioral Health Navigation Program is administered by Peace River Center, if callers need outpatient services that are provided by Peace River Center, and they would like to receive those services through Peace River, the Navigators can facilitate them getting registered. However, callers seeking help are not limited to Peace River Center as a care provider.

“If they’re needing other services, we’re able to give them that contact information for the service that they’re looking for. If they need any additional assistance, like filling out an application or obtaining the paperwork needed to complete an application, we can help them with that process, as well.”

If transportation to appointments is a problem, navigators are able to connect patients with community resources for that assistance, too. While the program is geared primarily toward helping people find mental health services, Aguilar and her team understand that these issues are often tied into other problems an individual may have, so they will provide referrals and resources for other services as necessary.

The program has established connections with primary care physicians in the area, as well as the Polk County Health Department and other clinics throughout the county. Any of these providers can direct patients in need of behavioral health services to the Navigation Program. Representatives from the program attend community events to provide outreach and let the public know about the service, too.

“A lot of times we start off face to face at one of our outreach locations,” Aguilar says. “We do get referrals online, and sometimes people will get referrals from other medical providers, so for those we’ll initiate phone contact supported with an email for any documentation that may be needed. If email is a struggle for them, we can meet them out in the community, as well. We really try to communicate based on meeting them where they are.”

The guidance offered does not end with one phone call and a referral. They are available throughout the individual’s journey getting care, and navigators will follow up to see whether the caller has been able to receive services.

“When we receive a referral, everyone is contacted, we reach out to them within 24 hours,” she states. “Once we’re able to provide them resources and connect them with whatever is going to be supportive for them, we’ll do follow-up after that first appointment or visit, or after they’ve submitted an application to see if they’ve heard back, or to see how that first appointment went, just to make sure it worked out the way it was expected to.”

You can access the Behavioral Health Navigation Program by visiting the Peace River Center website at, or by calling (863) 519-0575 ext. 7880.

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