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Guest post: More ways you can help improve our city’s approach to mental health

Due to the extraordinary interest expressed by participants at the last ONE by ONE Public Education Forum regarding mental health issues, we decided to contact JCCI to get an updated about the implementation phase of their mental health inquiry study. Many of the ideas you suggested during the table discussions are already included in some of the task forces, so I encourage you to contact Steve Rankin, our guest blogger to get connected with some of those existing groups. You can access the full report of the Mental Health Inquiry here. - Maira Martelo


 

Glance around your office, or look down the street in your neighborhood. Someone you know in that narrow universe lives with a mental illness, whether you realize it or not. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that one in every four adults in the United States experiences a diagnosable mental illness in any given year. That means approximately 270,000 adults in Northeast Florida are living with a mental illness.  

Even though most mental illnesses can be effectively treated, allowing the individual to recover and lead a productive life, an estimated 60 percent of adults and 50 percent of children with mental illnesses are never diagnosed or treated. The toll on these individuals as well as the entire community is significant.

JCCI conducted a major community inquiry in 2014 to examine assumptions about mental health and current mental health systems in Northeast Florida in an effort to find ways to positively impact the quality of life for every person living with a mental illness or caring for a family member who does.

The inquiry revealed that mental health is rarely discussed, people with mental illnesses are stigmatized in the community, there is a shortage of mental health professionals, the system of care is fragmented, and the public sector is severely underfunded. All of these factors lead to an undersupply of preventive and rehabilitative services.

Once the results of the inquiry were released to the community, phase two of the project commenced in October 2014. More than 100 volunteers came together to form JCCI’s Mental Health Implementation Task Force, led by community steward Pat Hogan. The role of the Task Force during its two-year term is to advocate to the applicable stakeholders and elected leaders for the implementation of the 12 recommendations developed by the inquiry committee.  

The group was divided into seven subcommittees, each of which is responsible for one or more of the recommendations that involve the following subject areas: strategic plan and legislative action; coordination of care; funding; professional training and board licensure; decriminalization of mental illness; managing severe and persistent mental illness; and public awareness and early identification.

Nine months into the project, significant progress is being realized in several of these areas, but perhaps the most gratifying result of the Task Force’s activities to date is the growing collaborative spirit of organizations and associations involved in the mental health community. It quickly became evident that those involved in mental health have typically operated in silos, and collaboration has been all too infrequent, resulting in a fragmented system that is often hard to navigate by individuals seeking to access it. We are indeed pleased that the JCCI project has provided a mechanism for bringing people together to improve the lives of those in our community touched by mental illness.  

Anyone wishing to participate on the Implementation Task Force is encouraged to contact me via email at steve@jcci.org, and we will connect you with the subcommittee of greatest interest to you.  We welcome anyone interested in improving the mental health of our community, whether or not you are professionally involved in the mental health system.

Another good way to connect is to participate in the upcoming MHA Mental Health Summit, a statewide two-day conference being held at Hyatt Regency Jacksonville on August 25-26.  Keynote speakers include Steve Leifman, 11th Judicial Circuit (Miami-Dade County) and A. Hugh Greene, President and CEO of Baptist Health.  Registration information is linked here, and you are encouraged to register prior to August 1 when the registration fee increases.  Judge Leifman has personally led innovative efforts in Miami-Dade to find ways to divert individuals with severe and persistent mental illness away from the criminal justice system. Mr. Greene and Baptist Health have been strong supporters of the JCCI Mental Health project from the outset and are recognized leaders on mental health in Jacksonville’s health care sector.  

Thank you for your interest in making community mental health a priority in Northeast Florida, and we invite you to become involved as we continue to strive to improve the mental health system in our area.  

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    Steve Rankin 

    Program Director, Jacksonville Community Council Inc.