General Services & Admissions:

What is a Clinical Assessment?

This service is provided on a walk in basis and is the beginning of your journey to wellness. New and returning clients meet with a qualified clinician to assess your needs and ensure you are referred to the program that will help you in your journey. As a part of this session your clinician will schedule a follow up and provide resources.

What is therapy?

Therapy is the process of talking to a trained professional about a wide range of challenges you may be having. It can be useful in meeting personal goals, improving the ability to cope with stress and everyday problems.

What is a psychiatric evaluation?

This service is for those who have received a clinical assessment and were referred to a doctor to be evaluated for the possibility of medications.

What is medication management?

This service is for those who are prescribed medications by a psychiatrist. Individuals will meet with the psychiatrist with a certain level of frequency depending on the individual.

What services are available other than those described above?

First Step of Sarasota has 17 programs to address mental health and addiction disorders, behavioral challenges and prevention education. These services are for adults and children.

What ages do we treat?

Our mental health and addiction programs treat ages 5 and older. Many of our specialty programs are geared toward specific age groups. Please review the children’s section for more information.

Do I have to stay with my minor child or adolescent for his or her appointment?

Guardians need to be present for the initial assessment for anyone under 18 and available to participate per the treating providers recommendations. Each of our specialty programs have different requirements.

What levels of care do you offer?

First Step of Sarasota offers outpatient care for adults and children, residential care for girls and boys 13-17 with substance use diagnosis and often co-occurring mental health disorders. We also offer mentoring programs for youth and adults as well as prevention education. Additional information is located on the web site.

What is a dual diagnosis and do you treat a dual diagnosis?

Your treatment team will have experience in treating dual diagnosis and can help you address your concerns.

What about confidentiality?

First Step of Sarasota is committed to protecting your confidentiality as mandated by state and federal law. Each staff member is obligated to be familiar with and to observe these laws and standards. We are diligent about our responsibility to protect the anonymity of everyone who receives services at First Step of Sarasota. We do not release any information without verified, written consent from the individual containing specific, legally-required elements.

How do I access services at First Step of Sarasota?

If this is an emergency please call the walk-in Access Center at 941-552-1950
Otherwise for treatment and assessment services for mental health and/or substance use please contact our Outpatient Services Sarasota at 941-331-2530 or North Port at 941-492-4300.

What should I bring to my first appointment?

Please bring your insurance card, identification and payment for services rendered.

Depending on your referral source we may also require that referral documents be provided. 

If you do not have insurance and would like to apply for a sliding scale please bring the following documents:   

If you do not have insurance, you may be eligible for a sliding fee scale discount. Please provide sufficient proof of household income (proof of income for every person living in the household that receives any type of income).  

  1. SS wage report
  2. W-2
  3. Tax return
  4. Pay stub
  5. Bank Statement 
  6. Any other documents you feel would be important in regard to household income

What can I expect at my first appointment?

The desk receptionist will ask you to complete intake paperwork and insurance or financial documents.

I want to see a psychiatrist for medications. Why do I have to have a clinical assessment first?

First Step of Sarasota offers a wide variety of helpful services and programs. By meeting with a clinician you can be assured that you are being referred to the best program for YOU that we offer. To get into treatment an assessment is the first step.


How much does treatment cost?

Fees vary based on the service, level of care and your insurance benefits.

What insurance do you accept?

First Step is a contracted provider for many insurance plans. Insurance benefits will be verified prior to any billable service.

I have no insurance. How much does it cost?

Fees for service vary depending on the service type and level of care.
Self pay customers may apply for a discount by providing proof of household income prior to service being rendered.

I can’t afford to pay full fee what are my options?

We offer a sliding scale and documentation must be provided to show household income. Examples of proof of income include:
* SS wage report
* W-2
* Tax return
* Paystub
* Bank statement
Any other documents regarding household income you feel would be important

Crisis Stabilization:

What happens when a patient arrives in the Crisis Unit?

Upon arrival, the nurse will explain to the client/ guardian the following process:

  • The psychiatrist will evaluate the client within 24 hours and together with the treatment team, decide on an appropriate treatment plan.
  • The nurse will need some information from the parent/guardian on medical history, allergies, medications, and any consent for treatment we may need. In addition, the nurse will discuss setting up a family meeting if appropriate to ensure the best discharge plan for the patient and family.
  • During the course of the client’s stay in the Crisis Unit, you may be contacted by several different staff members to gather critical medical and clinical information. We are dedicated to ensuring that your loved ones receive the most exceptional care possible while in our care. As a result, at times you be may asked the same questions more than once in order to ensure a thorough and detailed approach.

When are the visiting hours and what are the visitation policies?

Policies government visitors have changed because of Covid-19. Normally, visiting hours are 7 days per week. Unit 1: 6:30 pm-7:30 pm and Unit 2: 7:30 pm-8:30 pm. A client may have up to 4 visitors at each visitation, but no visitors under the age of 18 years old. Visitors must leave all items in the vehicles except car keys. They are allowed to bring clients appropriate clothing if needed, but they will provide it to the tech at the door so they may inventory it prior to client receiving the items. At any point, a client may decline a visitation from any visitor if they choose.

What are the goals of the Crisis Stabilization Services?

The goal is to keep everyone safe, assist to stabilize the patient and ensure their safe discharge. The treatment team provides a clear evaluation of the patient’s mental health needs, clarifies their view of priority problem areas, discusses and clarifies diagnoses and review recommendations for treatment, medication and follow up services and appointments. Most importantly, the Crisis Unit staff hopes to provide patients and families with education on how to address mental health and substance abuse issues, identify all available resources and provide encouragement, hope and an environment that promotes life-changing wellness to achieve all that is possible for a healthy life.

What is the Crisis Stabilization Unit:

The First Step Crisis Stabilization Unit (CSU) is a 37-bed unit. The unit provides emergency services 24 hours per day, 7 days a week to individuals ages 18 and older who are experiencing a serve emotional or psychiatric crisis.

Why do people need the Crisis Stabilization Unit?

An individual is determined to need a Crisis Unit admission based on certain risk factors and the concerns raised by a community law enforcement officer or a licensed professional such as a doctor, licensed psychotherapist or a licensed social worker. Individuals are then required to undergo a mental health/psychiatric evaluation either voluntarily or under an involuntary process. The reasons for the evaluation include concerns that the individual poses an imminent risk for self-harm, harm to others, or self-neglect related to a possible mental health condition or problem.

What is the Baker Act and how long is someone under the Baker Act?

The Baker Act is a Florida Law that allows for a person to be held involuntarily for up to 72 hours for psychiatric evaluation and stabilization.

When are patients released from the Crisis Unit?

A psychiatrist will evaluate the patient within 24 hours of arrival at the Crisis Unit. The treatment team will determine a safe course of treatment for the patient. Family and significant others’ involvement is encouraged along with the appropriate consents. It is our desire to work as a team in the best interest of the patient and family. The psychiatrist must determine the client is no longer a danger to themselves or others, and be currently stabilized prior to discharge.

Will a patient stay longer than 72 hours?

In some cases, yes. If the patient needs to stay longer, the psychiatrist would “petition” for a Baker Act hearing that is held at the Kreisman Crisis Stabilization Unit, and the civil/court system would hear the testimony of all appropriate parties in order to make a determination if the patient will be court ordered /required to stay hospitalized for additional days of inpatient treatment and stabilization. Guardians, Proxy’s and parents are invited and typically expected to attend the on-campus court proceedings and, in the case of an adult client, the client may choose witnesses as well.

Who works with the patients?

The Crisis Stabilization Unit treatment team consists of psychiatrists, nurses, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, clinicians and behavioral healthcare technicians and discharge planners. We believe in the importance of a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary, team-based approach.

What do the patients do throughout the day?

There are specific programs such as informational and educational groups that patients are encouraged to attend.

Outpatient Services:

First Step of Sarasota provides several outpatient services. We provide outpatient psychiatric evaluations and services to both adults and children, medication management, targeted case management, prevention education for both mental health and substance abuse disorders.

Medical Services:

What can I expect if I am referred to Medical services?

Psychiatric evaluation: your first appointment allows the prescriber to evaluate your needs.
Medication Management: staff will meet with you to take your vitals and review your treatment plan. 

News & Events

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Officials watch First Step of Sarasota County CEO Shawny Robey cut the ribbon to open the new 40-bed Community Offender Rehabilitative Treatment (CORT) program facility.
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Photo gallery of Caring Hearts Lunc...
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Mental Health Partners: