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Area health care systems join forces on Mental Health Initiative 

Thursday, January 26, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: DCMS
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Area Health Care Systems Join Forces to Launch Unprecedented Free Mental Health First Aid Training in North Florida

-Goal is to train 10,000 over three years to recognize signs of mental distress;

address mental health crisis in our community -

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (January 26, 2017) – A group of local hospitals has joined forces in an unprecedented campaign to bring free adult Mental Health First Aid training to North Florida. During the next three years, the goal for the Mental Health First Aid initiative is to train 10,000 first responders and residents in the community to recognize signs of mental illness.

Baptist Health, Brooks Rehabilitation, Mayo Clinic, St. Vincent’s HealthCare and UF Health Jacksonville are coordinating the effort to bring the training to North Florida.

Mental Health First Aid is an eight-hour course that teaches everyday citizens how to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illness and behavioral health issues.  All course training fees have been paid by the non-profit hospitals for the three year period.

Mental Health First Aid’s goal is to take the fear and hesitation out of starting conversations about mental health problems by improving understanding and providing an action plan that teaches citizens to safely and responsibly identify and address a potential mental illness or substance use disorders.

Mental health issues in the community have been a top priority for Jacksonville’s health institutions since the 2016 release of the Community Health Needs Assessment.

“That study identified troubling data about mental illness in our community. Each of our organizations offers mental health services and recognizes the need for earlier intervention. That’s why we’ve committed to fund and promote Mental Health First Aid, “said Doug Baer, CEO of Brooks Rehabilitation, speaking on behalf of his fellow CEOs. “This training will help citizens recognize signs of mental illness and provide an action plan that teaches individuals how to safely and appropriately intervene.”

The course is open to anyone, but first responders have been among the first to step up for the training locally. More than 500 JSO officers have already completed the training, with 3,000 to be trained in all.

“The JSO appreciates the opportunity to participate in the training, and in turn we are training all our employees – police, corrections, and civilians. I am optimistic this will help change our community culture from one where a mentally ill person’s first cry for help (sadly) requires police intervention. Those encounters are much more volatile and dangerous for all involved. Through training like Mental Health First Aid, everyone in the community becomes a partner in helping others get services they may need, hopefully before the police have to get involved,” said Sheriff Mike Williams.

 The Mayor’s Office also supports the effort.  “This innovative approach to addressing mental health issues in our community demonstrates a determined commitment to improving health outcomes in Jacksonville,” said Mayor Lenny Curry. “I commend our local community health systems for their leadership in providing mental health training to our frontline responders so that we can be more effective in getting treatment to those who need it.  This is exactly the kind of collaborative approach that will help our community Journey To One when it comes to the health and well-being of all of our citizens.”

 Northeast Florida ranks as second-lowest in the state for mental health funding. For more information on Mental Health First Aid or how to sign up for the training courses, please visit

About Mental Health First Aid The National Council for Behavioral Health operates Mental Health First Aid USA, a nationwide initiative to train one million citizens across the US.  Mental Health First Aid ( is an eight-hour course that teaches how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. The training gives the skills to reach out and provide initial help and support to someone who may be developing a mental health or substance use problem or experiencing a crisis. Mental Health First Aid takes the fear and hesitation out of starting conversations about mental health and substance use problems by improving understanding and providing an action plan that teaches people to safely and responsibly identify and address a potential mental illness or substance use disorder. Mental Health First Aid was created in 2001 by Betty Kitchener, a nurse specializing in health education, and Anthony Jorm, a mental health literacy professor. Kitchener and Jorm run Mental Health First Aid Australia, a national non-profit health promotion charity focused on training and research. More information on the history of the course is available at Mental Health First Aid Australia.

The United States is just one of the many countries that have adapted the program from Australia. Check out the other countries at Mental Health First Aid International.

About The Mental Health First Aid Northeast Florida Collaboration

About Baptist Health

Baptist Health is a faith-based, mission-driven system in Northeast Florida comprised of Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville; Baptist Medical Center Beaches; Baptist Medical Center Nassau; Baptist Medical Center South; Baptist Clay Medical Campus and Wolfson Children’s Hospital  – the region’s only children’s hospital.  All Baptist Health hospitals, along with Baptist Home Health Care, have achieved Magnet™ status for excellence in patient care. Baptist Health is part of Coastal Community Health, a regional affiliation between Baptist Health, Flagler Hospital and Southeast Georgia Health System forming a highly integrated hospital network focused on significant initiatives designed to enhance the quality and value of care provided to our contiguous communities. Baptist Health has the area’s only dedicated heart hospital; orthopedic institute; women’s services; neurological institute, including comprehensive neurosurgical services, a comprehensive stroke center and three primary stroke centers; a Bariatric Center of Excellence; a full range of psychology and psychiatry services; urgent care services; and primary and specialty care physicians’ offices throughout Northeast Florida. Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center is a regional destination for multidisciplinary cancer care which is clinically integrated with MD Anderson Cancer Center, the internationally renowned cancer treatment and research institution in Houston. For more details, visit

About Brooks Rehabilitation

Brooks Rehabilitation has been serving the southeast for over 40 years. As a non-profit organization, Brooks Rehabilitation, based in Jacksonville, FL, operates one of the nation’s largest inpatient rehabilitation hospitals in the US with 160 beds, one of the region’s largest home healthcare agencies, 29 outpatient rehabilitation clinics, a skilled nursing unit dedicated to orthopedic rehabilitation, a rehabilitation medicine physician practice, two skilled nursing facilities, assisted living and memory care. In addition, Brooks Rehabilitation operates the Brooks Rehabilitation Clinical Research Center which specializes in research for stroke, brain injury, spinal cord injury and more to advance the science of rehabilitation. Brooks Rehabilitation also provides many low or no cost community programs and services such as the Brooks Clubhouse and our Brooks Adaptive Sports and Recreation Program to improve the quality of life for people living with physical disabilities. For more information, visit


About Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit organization committed to medical research and education, and providing expert, whole-person care to everyone who needs healing. For more information, visit or

About St. Vincent’s HealthCare

In Jacksonville, Florida, Ascension’s St. Vincent’s HealthCare operates three hospitals in addition to dozens of healthcare facilities and employs more than 5,000 associates. Across the region, St. Vincent’s provided more than $75 million in community benefit and care of persons living in poverty in fiscal year 2016. Serving Jacksonville for over 130 years, Ascension is a faith-based healthcare organization committed to delivering compassionate, personalized care to all, with special attention to persons living in poverty and those most vulnerable. Ascension is the largest non-profit health system in the U.S. and the world’s largest Catholic health system, operating 2,500 sites of care – including 141 hospitals and more than 30 senior living facilities – in 24 states and the District of Columbia. Visit

About UF Health Jacksonville

UF Health Jacksonville is a private, not-for-profit hospital affiliated with the University of Florida Health Science Center campuses in Jacksonville and Gainesville. In Jacksonville, UF Health includes University of Florida faculty, residents and fellows within the UF College of Medicine-Jacksonville, who team up with outstanding caregivers and other employees to provide state-of-the-art services to residents throughout northeast Florida and southeast Georgia. This academic medical center’s mission is to heal, comfort and educate in an environment where exemplary medical care is complemented by outstanding service.

Media Contact:

Liz Morgan, Liz Morgan PR

(904) 608-3823 or