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Jacksonville City Council Passes, Fails Several Public Health Bills

Ray Hollister

The Jacksonville City Council voted on several bills dealing with public health at Tuesday’s meeting. One of them soared through the process, while another with mixed reviews ultimately failed.

Food Deserts

Jacksonville City Council members unanimously approved a bill setting aside $3 million to incentivize supermarket companies to open stores in areas lacking fresh grocery options.  A portion of that would be used to hire a consultant who would help with recommending and developing a supermarket Incentives program.

This comes after the closure of two grocery stores about 10 miles apart on Jacksonville’s Northwest side, an area already lacking options and known for having food deserts.

The bill points out there are about 177,000 food insecure individuals in Jacksonville, and those without access to fresh produce and meats often turn to processed foods.

The funding would come from the Northwest Jacksonville Economic Development Trust Fund.

The measure was sponsored by Councilman Reggie Brown and co-sponsored by council members Katrina Brown, Reggie Gaffney, Sam Newby and Garrett Dennis.

Hit-Free Zone

City Council denied the passage of a bill that would have designated City Hall a “hit-free zone.” It failed 9-9.

The bill had been deferred, getting mixed support in committees. The bill also had several proposed amendments such as not rolling out for six months, and applying to only City Hall, instead of all city properties as the original bill read.

Hit-Free zones have been adopted by many children’s hospitals and some counties.

Wolfson Children’s Hospital has declared its hospital hit-free, training employees how to intervene when they see escalating situations that might result in hitting. Baptist health is in the process of declaring all 40-plus of its facilities hit-free.

From the beginning, concerns centered around city liabilities and if the zones could be enforced.

The bill was sponsored by Councilman Garrett Dennis.

Opioid Pilot Extension

Council voted unanimously for a bill to extend its opioid pilot program “Project Save Lives” that had been scheduled to end next week.

The four-month extension carries over unused money allocated for the program that started in November 2017. The intervention work will also be expanded to more hospitals.

The doctor behind the program said the pilot, which intervenes with overdose patients in the emergency room, has been cheaper than expected because patients are choosing to get sober with the help of peer recovery specialists and not always choosing in-patent treatment.

“I was quite depressed thinking these people aren’t going to treatment but when I realized ‘oh my gosh, actually our success is far greater than I ever anticipated,’ “ Dr. Raymond Pomm had told a City Council committee.

The bill was sponsored by Councilman Bill Gulliford.

Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride.

Lindsey Kilbride was WJCT's special projects producer until Aug. 28, 2020. She reported, hosted and produced podcasts like Odd Ball, for which she was honored with a statewide award from the Associated Press, as well as What It's Like. She also produced VOIDCAST, hosted by Void magazine's Matt Shaw, and the ADAPT podcast, hosted by WJCT's Brendan Rivers.