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UNF Foundation, Inc.

Hospitals partner with UNF to address mental health

Helene Vossos believes that ‘health begins with mental health.’

The new assistant professor joined the Brooks College of Health recently as part of a heightened effort between the University of North Florida and local hospitals to address the critical need for more mental health practitioners in the Jacksonville area.

two medial professionals looking at a laptopA report prepared by the Jacksonville Community Council Inc. in 2014 paints a bleak picture of the lack of mental health care services in the region. And, when it comes to per capita mental health funding, Florida is 49th in the U.S., with Northeast Florida ranking second lowest in the state.

In February, St. Vincent’s HealthCare, Baptist Health, Brooks Rehabilitation, Flagler Hospital, Mayo Clinic and Memorial Hospital joined forces with UNF to change this. Together, the healthcare organizations pledged nearly $900,000 to the University to aid in the development of mental health professionals. 

The partners are providing resources to support the Brooks College of Health’s Mental Health Graduate Nursing Program, which includes a professorship funded by St. Vincent’s. 

Vossos was selected for the professorship and began her work at UNF in September. She holds dual national board certifications as a psychiatric mental health advanced registered nurse practitioner and as an adult nurse practitioner.

“UNF is on the cutting edge of education for nursing colleges,” Vossos said, adding that enrollment in its psychiatric nurse practitioner program has more than doubled. “The state’s large aging and homeless populations, many mentally ill, add to the dire need for expanding comprehensive mental health services, ” she said.

Vossos believes the collaboration with local hospitals is a great example of UNF’s synergy with the community.

Tom VanOsdol, president and CEO of St. Vincent’s HealthCare, said being a part of this partnership fits in perfectly with his organization’s mission, and he is grateful for the opportunity to work with other healthcare organizations.

“In addition to our investment to offer significantly more behavioral health services within our own health system, we’re honored to be working to address this issue alongside other healthcare leaders in Northeast Florida,” VanOsdol said. “We are truly grateful for the opportunity to play a part in training the clinicians who we hope will provide these critically important services for our future patients.”

While Vossos has taught for many years, she has a passion for educating and mentoring nurses. She not only looks forward to preparing them to assess, diagnose and treat mental disorders, but she also wants to inspire them to promote mental health and serve the communities where they live.