Our Story

30 Years of Healing Nassau County

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Our Mission

To promote emotional wellness through psychiatric, mental health, and substance use disorder treatment services combined with community education and awareness.

Our Vision

Deliver superior behavioral healthcare services as part of an integrated healthcare delivery system. We will be a vital part of our community, committed to providing excellent care to meet the behavioral healthcare needs of individuals and families. We will incorporate new technologies and evidence-based practices to continue to improve and sustain outcomes. 

Rachel D. Sutton, Founder of Nassau County Mental Health Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Council, Inc.

Rachel D. Sutton presented with a portrait of herself by local artist Karen McFadyen on October 18, 2007.

April 2, 1992

Rachel D. Sutton Opens Nassau County's First Mental Health and Substance Use Clinic

On April 2, 1992, Rachel D. Sutton responded to the community need for behavioral health services and opened Nassau County’s first mental health and substance use clinic under the name Nassau County Mental Health and Alcoholism Drug Abuse Council, Inc (NCMHADAC). The flagship office was located at 1303 Jasmine Street, Fernandina Beach, FL, 32034. Sutton was named as President & CEO and served the nonprofit agency in this capacity until 2000.

February 3, 1994

NCMHADAC Opens Hilliard Drop-In Center

On February 3, 1994, NCMHADAC closed on its first West Side property in Hilliard and began providing “Day Treatment” which is now referred to as “Psychosocial Rehabilitation”. The Psychosocial Rehabilitation program provides life and social-skills training in a hands-on real-time environment for adults living with severe and persistent mental illnesses. A few years later, NCMHADAC opened a Drop-In Center for higher functioning individuals at the intersection of Orange Street and CR108. After closing the Orange Street site, NCMHADAC consolidated locations and began providing Psychosocial Rehabilitation and drop-in services at the Hilliard Drop-In Center located at 371015 Eastwood Rd., Hilliard, FL, 32034.

Hilliard Drop-In Center Exterior

Exterior and entrance to the Hilliard Drop-In Center. 

371015 Eastwood Rd., Hilliard, FL, 320234

Greater Fernandina Church of God

Greater Fernandina Church of God - original site of the Fernandina Beach Drop-In Center.


NCMHADAC Opens Second Drop-In Center in Fernandina Beach

In 1998, NCMHADAC opened its second Drop-In Center (DIC) in the basement of the Greater Fernandina Church of God in Fernandina Beach, FL. The DIC offered mental health counseling and support services for adults living with severe and persistent mental illnesses. Later, the Fernandina Beach DIC moved to a standalone structure on Sadler Road.


NCMHADAC named Edwin W. Dews CEO

After 8 years of service, Rachel D. Sutton handed the leadership reigns over to Edwin “Ed” Dews. Dews served as CEO of Nassau County Mental Health Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Council, Inc. until 2008. Pictured to the right is Ed Dews, new CEO of Nassau County Mental Health Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Council, Inc.

Edwin Dews

Edwin "Ed" Dews

CARF Gold Seal

Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities' Gold Seal


NCMHADAC receives first CARF Accredidation

In 2000, Nassau County Mental Health Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Council, Inc. receives its first CARF Accreditation. CARF (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities) is an independent, nonprofit accreditor of health and human services providers in the areas of Aging Services, Behavioral Health, Child and Youth Services, Durable Medical Equipment, Employment and Community Services, Medical Rehabilitation, Opioid Treatment Programs, and Vision Rehabilitation Services. Touting the CARF seal signifies an organization has successfully undergone a rigorous accreditation process consisting of an internal examination of program and business practices, on-site surveys, and annual documentation to prove that the agency continually exceeds quality standards.

February 9, 2002

NCMHADAC Rebrands to Sutton Place Behavioral Health

In honor of the NCMHADAC founder Rachel D. Sutton, CEO, Edwin Dews, changes the organization’s name to Sutton Place Behavioral Health and moves the agency into its new location at 910 8th Street, STE 300, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034. The organization remained in this location until its permanent move to Yulee, FL in 2008.

Sutton Place Behavioral Health Logo
Nassau County School District Logo

Sutton Place Partners with Nassau County School District to Fight Drug Abuse

Through funding provided by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, Sutton Place partnered with the Nassau County School District to launch “Project Success”. The goal of Project Success was to prevent and reduce substance abuse among high-risk middle and high school age students. Through a partnership with the Nassau County School District, Sutton Place provided a full-time counselor that worked in the classroom and conducted prevention and education discussions, resistance, and competency skills, as well as communication, decision-making, stress management, and anger management skills. Read a press release about Project Success.

September 19, 2007

Sutton Place Wins National SAMHSA Science to Service Award for "Project Success"

In 2007, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) awarded Sutton Place the Science to Service Award for “Project Success.” The Science to Service Award recognizes exemplary implementation of evidence-based interventions to prevent and treat mental illnesses and substance abuse.

Check out an excerpt from the Press Release or read the full article here.

Excerpt from Newspaper
IGA Supermarket
Sutton Place

IGA Supermarket



April 1, 2008

Sutton Place Behavioral Health Moves to Yulee

In the early part of 2008, Sutton Place moved its primary treatment facility off the island to its new permanent home in Yulee, FL on the site of the old IGA supermarket. This new location offered plenty of room for expansion and provided an opportunity for the organization to consolidate its services under one roof. Moving forward, all mental health and substance use treatment services were made available at the new location, aside from the Psychosocial Rehabilitation which continued to operate out of the Hilliard and Fernandina Beach Drop-In Centers.

Read the Press Release

September 12, 2008

Dr. Laureen Pagel named CEO of Sutton Place Behavioral Health

In 2008, after 9 years of service at the organization as the Director of Clinical Operations, Dr. Laureen Pagel assumed the role of Chief Executive Officer at Sutton Place Behavioral Health. Dr. Pagel superseded Ed Dews and has served as the CEO ever since. Because of her leadership, the organization has undergone multiple expansion efforts and more than doubled in size and budget.

Read the Press Release

Laureen Pagel, CEO of Starting Point Behavioral Healthcare

Dr. Laureen Pagel

Starting Point Rebranding

Cherie Billings, Starting Point Board Member, speaking to a crowd at the rebranding ceremony.

Read the Press Release

April 19, 2013

Sutton Place Behavioral Health Rebrands to Starting Point Behavioral Healthcare

In April of 2013, Sutton Place Behavioral Health, with the help of Deppe Communications, rebranded to Starting Point Behavioral Healthcare. The new branding and logo were introduced to elected officials, employees, healthcare providers and community dignitaries at a press conference held at the nonprofit’s main treatment facility in Yulee, FL.

“We chose the name Starting Point to reflect the new path and fresh start that we represent to our clients. As a behavioral health provider, we play an important role in the overall healthcare system. Our services help people make significant changes to improve their mental and physical health. Our tagline, Healing Begins Here, sums up the approach we take in helping other.” (Laureen Pagel, CEO of Starting Point Behavioral Healthcare)


Starting Point Offers Mental Health First Aid Programs to Nassau County

In the early part of 2014, Starting Point launched the very first Mental Health First Aid program in Nassau County, FL. Mental Health First Aid is a course that teaches you how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. The training gives you the skills you need to reach out and provide initial help and support to someone who may be developing a mental health or substance use problem or experiencing a crisis.

In that same year, Starting Point began providing mental health first aid curriculum geared towards public safety officers (Public Safety Mental Health First Aid) and adults who interact with youth (Youth Mental Health First Aid).

Fernandina Beach Drop-In Center

Fernandina Beach Drop-In Center

2201 Sadler Road, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034

June 1, 2016

Starting Point Moves Fernandina Beach Drop-In Center to Permament Location on Sadler Road

After year of operating the Fernandina Beach Drop-In Center out of multiple locations, Starting Point landed a permanent home for the program which offers a safe place for individuals living with severe and persistent mental illnesses. Informally known as ‘Our Place’, clients take ownership of the facility, learn life and social-skills training, and support each other in their recovery process. The facility is located at 2201 Sadler Road, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034.

Read the Press Release

March 2017

Starting Point Launches New Care Coordination Program and Partners with Baptist Medical Center Nassau to Reduce Recidivism in the ED

In March of 2017, Starting Point launched and began providing Care Coordination services to the Nassau County community and to mental health/substance use presenting patients in the Baptist Medical Center Nassau Emergency Department.

Care Coordination is designed to link individuals with services in the community to reduce their need for higher levels of care and provide support and guidance through the recovery process. It is intended to be a short-term service striving to get the individual back on their own two feet by increasing self-sufficiency.

The Care Coordination partnership with Baptist Health identifies patients in the emergency room who have mental health and substance use disorders and connects them to the right community resources for interventional care. Among other objectives, the partnership’s primary goal is to reduce the number of return visits to the E.R.

April 30, 2018

Starting Point Hosts First Community Conversations Event

In April of 2018, as part of the organization’s mission to promote emotional wellness through community education and awareness, Starting Point Behavioral Healthcare hosted its inaugural “Community Conversations” event at the Peck Center. Community Conversations offers presentations to the community about Starting Point Behavioral Healthcare services, specific programming, and mental health and substance use issues. It was established to educate and engage the community on a range of behavioral health topics.

January 2019

Starting Point Launches 24/7 Mobile Response Team to Assist with Behavioral Health Crisis Situations

In January of 2019, Starting Point launched the Mobile Response Team (MRT) – a 24/7 crisis hotline to triage and treat behavioral health emergencies occurring in individuals ages 25 and younger. The Mobile Response Team partners with the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office and, together, the two work together to effectively address mental health and substance use emergencies. Most often, the Mobile Response Team is dispatched to provide support for individuals experiencing suicidal/homicidal thoughts or behaviors, extreme behavioral challenges, emergencies related to substance use, or psychotic episodes including hallucinations, delusion content, paranoia, etc.

Starting Point's Mobile Response Team

24/7 Mobile Response Team

April 22, 2020

Starting Point Transitions to Telemedicine Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11, 2020. Stay at home orders left behavioral health providers across the country wondering how they would continue to treat their patients.

Within a month’s time, Starting Point successfully pivoted to a telemedicine model to ensure that no services were interrupted. The organization even offered fully sanitized “Zoom Rooms” at their primary office location in Yulee where individuals who faced technology barriers were able to come in person and complete their telehealth appointment with their provider.

July 21, 2020

Starting Point Launches Free Online Discussion Group Amidst COVID-19

In the height of the Coronavirus pandemic, Starting Point looked for ways to connect with community members that felt isolated and alone. Because of social distancing precautions and stay at home orders, the organization could no longer hold its “Community Conversations” in-person events. That didn’t stop them. In July of 2021, 4 months after COVID-19 was declared a national emergency, the organization launched “Being Well, Starting Now.”

Being Well, Starting Now is a free virtual webinar series providing a space for behavioral healthcare experts and community members to discuss the effects of mental health and substance use disorders. It was established as a safe space for individuals to share their thoughts, feelings, and coping mechanisms.

April 14, 2021

Starting Point Offers Student Loan Forgiveness

Starting Point Behavioral Healthcare became a National Health Service Corps approved site in 2021. This designation offers eligible employees up to $100,000 of student loan forgiveness.

“One of the things I believe we do well as a company is offering a robust benefits package. In order to care for the individuals we serve, it is my personal belief that we must extend a similar level of care to our staff. Providing student loan forgiveness is a strategy to both recruit and retain excellent health care professionals. We are thrilled about this opportunity because it enhances the benefits for our amazing employees and elevates the care we are bringing to our Nassau County neighbors.” (Laureen Pagel, CEO, Starting Point Behavioral Healthcare)

May 5, 2021

Starting Point Launches Volunteer Program

For years, Starting Point punted the question “How can I get involved?”. Since the organization is HIPAA compliant, it was a difficult question to answer. That changed in 2021 when the Director of Outreach & Education launched the Ambassadors Program, a volunteer program that advocates for the reduction of stigma related to mental health and substance disorders. Among many benefits, Starting Point Ambassadors have the opportunity be a difference maker, promote healthy living, and build relationship in Nassau County.


Starting Poin Becomes a Certified NARCAN Distribution Center

In 2021, through a partnership with the Department of Children and Families I save Florida Overdose Prevention Program, Starting Point became a NARCAN distribution center. In its first year as a distribution center, the organization delivered 240 units of NARCAN completely free of charge.


NARCAN Nasal Spray is an FDA approved treatment for known or suspected overdose and is design or use in the community.

Sstarting Point Employees

Starting Point Surpasses 100 Employees

In the early part of 2022, Starting Point Behavioral Healthcare welcomed its 100th employee to the organization. This milestone was a major move for the behavioral healthcare company that managed to grow its workforce during the novel Coronavirus pandemic.

March 9, 2022

Starting Point Launches Partnership Website to Provide Free Mental Health Trainings for NE FL Residents

On March 9, 2022, Starting Point, and its partnering nonprofit organizations, launched the Talkable Communities website. Among other features, site visitors may register for a free mental health training course both online and in person.

Talkable Communities is a collaboration of 5 nonprofit organizations (Clay Behavioral Health Center, Child Guidance Center, EPIC Behavioral Healthcare, Gateway – Steps to Recovery, and Starting Point Behavioral Healthcare). The project advances mental well-being for children and families across 6 counties in Northeast Florida (Clay, Duval, Flagler, Nassau, Putnam, and St. Johns) by providing free and accessible mental health resources and training courses (Youth Mental Health First Aid, Question. Persuade. Refer, and It’s Time to Talk about it!).

30 Year Anniversary Logo
April 2, 2022

Starting Point Celebrates 30 Year Anniversary

April 2, 2022 marked 30 years of mental health and substance use services to Nassau County residents and the surrounding communities.

“I am honored to continue to serve our community, to have a hand in making Nassau County a happier and healthier place to live, and to provide a safety net for our neighbors that need a safe place to shore our troubles. I look forward to thirty more years of service.” (Laureen Pagel, CEO, Starting Point Behavioral Healthcare)

Read the Press Release