Jay Reeve, Apalachee Center

Dr. Jay Reeve was raised by a single mother among relatives who lived and struggled with serious mental illness.

“In the 1960s and early 1970s, these illnesses were seen as shameful and didn’t get talked about,” Reeve, the CEO of Apalachee Center said.

Fast forward to 2023, behavioral health care is having a moment. Fueled by studies indicating record levels of anxiety and depression among children and young adults in the aftermath of COVID-19-related school shutdowns and social distancing, discussions about and interest in behavioral health care are peaking in Tallahassee and across the country.

Reeve has witnessed the changing landscape of behavioral health care firsthand throughout his 40 years in the industry – it’s his life’s work.

Reeve had his first professional exposure to working in mental health in 1985. At the time, he was a Harvard graduate student studying theology and applied to an entry-level job

as a mental health assistant (MHA) at a local psychiatric hospital to pay the bills.

“I was so captured by the stories that people told, and the intensity of their desire to communicate – it seemed like the perfect fit for me,” Reeve recalls. ”It wasn’t until years later that I realized it was such a good fit for me because of my family background.”

Reeve switched his graduate degree focus to psychology and eventually earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. He practiced as a clinical psychologist at state and private hospitals and in private practice while also holding faculty appointments at medical schools, psychiatry residency programs and doctoral programs in clinical psychology in New York, Delaware and Rhode Island before moving to Tallahassee to work at Apalachee Center in 2005.

“I thought I’d spend about six months at Apalachee Center and then transition into private practice, but I ended up falling in love with the organization, the business and organizational side of behavioral health care, and with Tallahassee. It was a huge surprise.”

In 2008, he took over as CEO. Since that time, Apalachee Center has grown substantially, doubling not only its number of staff but more significantly, its number of clients. Apalachee has also pioneered the local use of telepsychiatry, launched scores of new programs, and led the creation of the local Mental Health Council of the Big Bend (MHCBB).

Reeve is particularly proud of Apalachee Center’s partnerships with Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare (TMH) and Florida State University which have culminated in the soon-to-open Live Oak Behavioral Health Center. The outpatient clinic, which will serve clients from both Apalachee Center and TMH, will be the largest outpatient behavioral health practice in the region and home to the Florida State University College of Medicine’s Psychiatry Residency Program.

The center’s opening signals another chapter in Apalachee Center’s continued growth. Apalachee Center has been around since 1948 and serves not only Leon County but the seven surrounding counties – Gadsden, Liberty, Franklin, Wakulla, Taylor, Jefferson and Madison – with outpatient, inpatient, residential and virtual care.

As for the community, Reeve believes that the newfound openness around behavioral healthcare will continue. Apalachee Center is ready and willing to serve those needing care at any time.