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Mental Health and Care Access: Northeast Florida Areas In Need Of Improvement

Lindsey Kilbride

Duval County’s suicide rate is far higher than the state average — that’s what the latest community Health Needs Assessment Study found.

Local healthcare providers presented the data and improvement plans Thursday.

Baptist Health CEO Hugh Greene said the community has some work to do when it comes to mental health.

“Suicide rates in this part of the state are much higher than in other parts of the state," he said. "So it means despite all the work we’ve done, we’ve got a lot of work to do in that particular area."

The report shows Nassau, Duval and St Johns counties have suicide rates more than 10 percent higher than the rest of the state. On top of that, Florida ranks second to last in per-capita state mental health funding.  

Greene says he’s also concerned about access to care. St. Johns, Duval, Nassau and Baker counties have high numbers of low-income residents not visiting doctors due to cost.

Verite Healthcare Consulting helped Northeast Florida conduct the study. Verite President Keith Hearle said Florida not expanding medicaid is a factor to consider.

“I do this work in other states when medicaid has been expanded  and it’s like night and day from the same work three years ago where people are getting better access to services,” he said.

According to the report, people said they’ve missed appointments due to lack of transportation and 2/3 of respondents said the area’s public transportation isn’t sufficient.

Moving forward, hospitals are implementing plans to target the biggest problem areas while training members of the public to help others with developing mental health problems through the Mental Health First Aid Program.

View the full report

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.