10k To Receive Mental Health Training In Jacksonville

Jan 26, 2017

Brooks Rehabilitation CEO Doug Baer announces the new mental health first aid training program with colleagues from five other health care providers.
Credit Ryan Benk / WJCT News

Health professionals from several Jacksonville hospitals are launching a project to train thousands of people to recognize the signs of mental illness, which can help reduce harmful stigma and get people connected to treatment faster.

But Florida’s lack of mental healthcare resources is still a hurdle.


Five Duval County nonprofit hospitals plan to train at least 10,000 people over three years in mental health first aid — and they’re footing the bill.

Brooks Rehabilitation CEO Doug Baer said the eight hour course provides tools to recognize an imminent crisis.

“You know, I think this program is really designed, as you said, to help identify the signs and symptoms so people can refer people that may be dealing with these issues to the appropriate organizations,” he said.

But getting someone help can be difficult, even if the signs are recognized. A 2014 Jacksonville Community Council study found not only does Florida rank 49 out of 50 for mental health funding, but Duval County is the second-lowest funded metro area in the state, which is directly linked to patients’ mental health outcomes.

Community Affairs Director for the mayor’s office Charles Moreland said the city intends this partnership to be just a first step.

“I cannot speak to what the budgetary priorities are going to be for the upcoming year. What I can tell you is that the mayor is committed to finding solutions,” he said.

The city is currently helping fund a central receiving facility, which should function as a crisis center where police or family members can take loved ones to be connected with short and long term mental health services. But the future of the facility is uncertain as advocates must raise $1.5 million before receiving a state grant to open its doors.

St. Vincent’s Healthcare CEO Tom VanOsdol said his company isn’t waiting for the hub to open though; his facilities are hiring more mental health specialists right now to deal with the services shortage.

“That’s really a big part of the long-term solution is making sure we have access to services and enough services in the right locations so individuals, who don't necessarily need to go to the emergency department, can get the care and the treatment they need for underlying mental health issues,” he said.

VanOsdol also said St. Vincent’s plans to open a new behavioral health care center in the near future.

For more information, or to sign up for a class, go to jaxmentalhealth.org.

Reporter Ryan Benk can be reached at rbenk@wjct.org, at (904) 358 6319 or onTwitter @RyanMichaelBenk.