About Sunland Center at Marianna

Sunland Center, a community serving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, is located in Marianna, Florida, the "City of Southern Charm."

Mission Statement:

To be an organization offering care and training that will allow individuals with developmental disabilities to thrive in their environment.

Vision Statement:

To advance the meaning of care, concern, compassion, understand and support for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities through hard work, quality care and treatment and tailored training; while developing community citizenship.

Value Statement:

This organization will demonstrate values to ensure health, safety and protection of rights for the individuals we serve. The foundational values are:

  • Safety and Security
  • Ability to Exercise Rights
  • Respect
  • Quality Care
  • Free from Abuse and Neglect

Community Characteristics

  • Total land area: 535 acres
  • Number of buildings including residences: 112
  • Maintains internal network
  • Maintains environmental park
  • Operates internal meal preparation
  • Operates internal mall
  • Operates internal ranch
  • Operates internal gymnasium and pool
  • Operates internal print Shop
  • Operates internal recycling
  • Operates internal chapel
  • Operates internal vocational program
  • Operates internal maintenance
  • Partners closely with Jackson County Schools
  • Directly neighbors Jackson County Fire Rescue & Rescue/Ambulance and Jackson County Health Department


Before World War II the City of Marianna managed an airport at the existing airport site, which covered 635 acres and included a 4,600 foot long dirt runway. The federal government acquired the airport and 1,915 additional acres in 1942 to construct the Marianna Army Airfield. Only one year later, the Army Airfield served as a training base for the Southeast Army Air Force Training Command. The training command was removed from the base in 1946.

Chipola Junior College, founded in 1947, was located on the grounds of the former Marianna Army Air Base. In the early 1950s, the campus was moved to its current location in Marianna. During this time, the State of Florida opened a series of state-of-the-art tuberculosis hospitals. These hospitals were named in honor of W.T. Edwards, who was the first chairman of the State Tuberculosis Board. One of the hospitals was located on the grounds, operating in the area where the current Sunland Cox Medical Center is located. When the vaccine for TB was discovered, there was no longer a need for tuberculosis hospitals and the W.T. Edwards Hospitals began to phase-out in the 1950s.

In 1951, the old Marianna Army Air Field was reactivated to provide primary flight training for Air Force pilots. New cadet barracks and other facilities were built. By 1952, military personnel began arriving and were greeted warmly by the residents of Jackson County. In March 1953, training officially began at Graham Air Base, Marianna. Graham Air Base was named for William J. Graham, a civilian who provided primary flight training to pilots and headed the school. Graham operated under constant military supervision. The air base ultimately employed 700 civilians. Graham employees became an integral part of the community, making their contributions to the economy, and the social and cultural life of the city of Marianna. They built homes, their families increased, their children went to school - Marianna was home. The Air Force decided to close Graham Air Base in late 1960.

In 1962, the Division of Sunland Training Centers dedicated the former Graham Air Base property as Sunland Training Center, Marianna. The services provided were for persons with mental and physical disabilities; specializing in serving children. Among the first admissions were residents who transferred to Marianna, from Sunland Gainesville. During this era, residents of the facility included children, as well as adults. Many children resided at Sunland Marianna for a number of years until the admissions criteria was changed to accept persons age 18 and up. The facility officially opened in January 1963.

In 1965, the Division of Mental Retardation was established and provided for the Sunland Training Centers located throughout the state.

By the end of the 1970s the State of Florida provided services for over 6,500 individuals with developmental disabilities.

Through the years, a number of Sunland Training Centers were closed. Supervision of the remaining facilities was moved to the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS), then to the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF).

In October 2004, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) became an agency separate from the Department of Children and Families, specifically tasked with serving the needs of Floridians with developmental disabilities. Prior to that time, it existed as the Developmental Disabilities Program under the Department of Children and Families.

On September 25, 2008, President George W. Bush signed the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAA) into law. The amendment broadened the definition of “disability” thereby extending the ADA’s protections to a greater number of people.

APD works in partnership with local communities and private providers to assist individuals who have intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. APD also provides assistance in identifying the needs of individuals with developmental disabilities for support and services.

To date, Sunland Center in Marianna, Developmental Disabilities Defendant Program (DDDP) in Chattahoochee, Pathways in Marianna, and Tacachale in Gainesville remain in operation under the Agency for Persons with Disabilities.

The Sunland Center and Tachachale currently serve a combined total of approximately 450 residents.