Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mental Health Gets a Local Booster Shot

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mental Health Gets a Local Booster Shot

Article excerpt

Mental health is really coming out of the shadows in Jacksonville.

This is thanks to one of the most comprehensive studies ever conducted by Jacksonville Community Council Inc., titled "Unlocking the Pieces."

The Times-Union has been an instigator and a partner in this process.

The editorial page has been writing about suicide and mental illness for a decade but in frustration at a lack of progress in the community, this page suggested a JCCI study.

Baptist Health stepped up as a major funder of the 2014 study, which was followed by an implementation phase.

Baptist Health CEO Hugh Greene recently told a final meeting of the study group that the community has begun to make progress on mental health.

Within the Baptist Health system itself, the board is willing to fund mental health services even when they lose money.

The implementation phase of the JCCI study has ended but it lasted two years, much longer than the study itself. Task Force Chair Pat Hogan outlined the challenges.

She noted that in 1 in 4 Americans will suffer from mental illness sometime in their lives. So the need is undeniable.

Yet in our community there is a dire shortage of mental health professionals, a fragmented care system and severe underfunding.

Perhaps the most important outcome of the JCCI study is the commitment of several health providers to provide mental health first-aid training to 10,000 people locally over three years.

Now that is really expanding awareness.

The providers deserve our thanks: Baptist Health, Brooks Rehabilitation, Mayo Clinic, UF Health Jacksonville and St. Vincent's Healthcare.

Mental Health First-Aid involves an eight-hour course that helps people recognize mental health issues, refer people to resources and dispel myths.

As an outcome of the JCCI study, high frequency users of mental health services were identified. The idea is to provide wraparound services to keep them out of expensive emergency room services. Homelessness is common among the high users.

Still, Hogan said, stigma is "the elephant in the room." People still aren't willing to admit publicly that they have had mental illness for fear of repercussions. That is not the case with most other diseases.

"I think we're starting to see a shift in that," Hogan said.

The timing could not be better since the importance of mental health is finally being recognized in Congress and the state Legislature.

To separate the mental from the physical in health is unrealistic.

EXAMPLES OF LOCAL PROGRESS

Some of the local developments in mental health care are significant for people suffering from mental illness.

- Baptist Health and UF Health Jacksonville have partnered to create the Wolfson Behavioral Health Center for Children, which opened in July. …

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