The Jacksonville Hospital Collaborative consists of five health systems located in Northeast Florida. The hospital collaborative includes Baptist Health, Brooks Rehabilitation, Mayo Clinic, St. Vincent’s HealthCare and UF Health Jacksonville. Since 2016, the collaborative has trained approximately 3,400 first aiders and certified around 60 Instructors in Mental Health First Aid.
The Jacksonville Hospital Collaborative was formed in 2012 to conduct community health needs assessments. The most recent assessment conducted in 2016 highlighted mental health as a top priority to focus on. Mayo Clinic Community Relations Administrator Ann-Marie Knight said that one of the most worrying statistics that jumped out to her in the assessment was that “it takes 14–30 days to get access to mental health resources.” In addition to the accessibility issue, Knight highlighted that “the suicide rate was increasing in every county in Jacksonville, except one.”
When considering the assessment, it was clear that mental health needed to be prioritized in Jacksonville. According to Baptist Health Senior Vice President for Social Responsibility and Community Advocacy Audrey Moran, “Healthcare systems care about mental health stigma because it is a barrier to care and we feel responsible for eliminating any obstacles.”
After deciding to prioritize mental health, the hospital collaborative considered working together on a project to address issues highlighted in the community health needs assessment. The group decided Mental Health First Aid would be something that they could work on together, increasing the community impact. This led to the collaborative reaching out to the National Council for Mental Wellbeing to discuss next steps.
Each health system pitched the idea to their respective leadership team, which resulted in the CEOs of each organization publicly voicing their commitment to mental health and pledging to contribute funding. For example, Doug Baer, CEO of Brooks Rehabilitation, clarified part of the rationale for investing in Mental Health First Aid as “a training [that] will help citizens recognize signs of mental illness and intervene appropriately, much like CPR.” According to Moran, “Mental Health First Aid was attractive to leadership because it addressed mental health stigma in a very tangible way.” Moran added, “Offering Mental Health First Aid was not a risk, it had a tremendous track record around the world.”
City leadership is supportive of the initiative as well. Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry referred to Mental Health First Aid as an “innovative approach to addressing mental health issues.” Due to the size of this venture, the hospital collaborative hired the Health Planning Council of Northeast Florida (HPCNEF) to manage the effort. HPCNEF helps the collaborative set collective targets for training and coordinates the efforts of the various stakeholders in meeting those targets.
The five hospital systems collectively funded two “train the trainer” sessions in Jacksonville, which resulted in 60 certified Instructors who made a commitment to train at least 100 people each year for three years. This has led to approximately 3,400 First Aiders trained through free courses, meeting the year one target based on the collaborative’s ultimate goal of training 10,000 Jacksonville citizens in four years.
Beyond the number of people trained, Moran highlighted, “After taking Mental Health First Aid, there is a realization that mental health is a disease just like diabetes. But unlike physical ailments, there is a certain way you need to talk about mental health because of the stigma surrounding it, and Mental Health First Aid prepares you to do that.” The Jacksonville Sherriff’s Office (JSO) became familiar with Mental Health First Aid and saw the need for its officers to be trained, which led to the department committing to train 3,000 of its employees.
The collaborative is on track to meet its goal of training 10,000 First Aiders by 2020 and plans to continue its strong partnership. Tom VanOsdol, president and CEO of St. Vincent’s HealthCare, added, “Our Mental Health First Aid collaborative aligns perfectly with St. Vincent’s mission of caring for everyone in our community, with special attention to those who are struggling the most. We are encouraged by the early success of the Mental Health First Aid initiative and we look forward to continuing our work together to train even more in our community.”
When asked about the future of Mental Health First Aid, Baptist Health mentioned that the collaborative is working together on the 2017 community health needs assessment, which might highlight some opportunities to use Mental Health First Aid to combat the opioid crisis. Mayo Clinic is planning on working with JSO to measure how Mental Health First Aid has impacted the services it provides to the community. In 2018, Mayo Clinic is increasing the number of trainings offered on Saturday in hopes of increasing course attendance. In addition, UF Health is conducting an evaluation to gauge how First Aiders are using what they learned.