Joanna Norris, Director
There’s a mental health
professional shortage not only in Northeast Florida but also across the
country. In order to address this critical shortage of psychiatric
professionals, six Jacksonville health care systems have come together to
collectively donate nearly $900,000, helping to alleviate this crisis by
funding the Mental Health Graduate Nursing Program in the Brooks College of
Health (BCH) School of Nursing at the University of North Florida. The program
will educate mental health nurse practitioners with earned doctorate degrees in
Florida has higher rates of suicide across all age sectors than the entire
state, according to a 2014 study by the Jacksonville Community Council Inc.
Almost 270,000 of the 1.1 million adults in Northeast Florida are living with a
mental illness. Roughly 4 percent, or about 42,000, of adults live with a
severe mental illness, like schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar disorder
or other psychotic disorders.
“This is a
very meaningful gift, and we’re exceptionally grateful to all of the donors,”
said Dr. Pam Chally, UNF BCH dean. “Local health care organizations are coming
together to support a significant need in Northeast Florida—increasing access
to mental health care. A lack of mental health care is a major public health
St. Vincent’s HealthCare, Baptist Health, Brooks
Rehabilitation, Flagler Hospital, Mayo Clinic and Memorial Hospital have
collectively and generously donated funds to support this critical mental
health nursing program. St. Vincent’s HealthCare is taking the lead in this
effort by establishing a non-endowed
professorship in Mental Health Graduate Nursing for a five-year period,
providing resources to pay the salary of an outstanding faculty member in the
field of psychiatric/mental health nursing. UNF will pay the professor’s salary
once this funding stream has been exhausted.
health is a top priority in our community, therefore it’s a top priority for
our ministry at St. Vincent’s. Northeast Florida ranks as the second-lowest
area in the state for mental health funding, which makes it even more
imperative for us to invest in partnerships like these to grow capacity and add
necessary resources to ensure all patients in need have access to the essential
behavioral health care they need locally,” said
Tom VanOsdol, interim CEO of St.
Vincent’s HealthCare. “Supporting this
program and professorship at UNF aligns perfectly with our regional strategy
and our mission to provide compassionate, holistic care to everyone throughout
the communities we serve.”
Brooks College offers a Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.
This program is fully accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of
Counseling and Related Educational Programs and
prepares mental health counselors to provide direct counseling services to
individuals, groups and families. Program graduates not only directly counsel
but also advocate for clients’ rights through participation in community, state
and national organizational efforts, becoming leaders in community agencies and
facilitating delivery of optimum mental health services.
With the addition of the
Mental Health Graduate Nursing Program at UNF, BCH will prepare mental health
professionals who will have a significant impact on the health of the First
Coast. With additional attention in this health care field, specifically
Northeast Florida, BCH is hopeful that mental health care will improve and that
social issues, like
and addiction, will decrease.
The Brooks College of Health prides
itself as being a leader in the preparation of the highest quality health care
professionals dedicated to serving the community. For this reason, the College
is continually working to provide specialized programming in a wide range of
health care fields. Currently, BCH offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and
bachelor’s degrees in public health, exercise science, health administration,
athletic training and nutrition.
Graduate programs include public
health, health administration, clinical mental health counseling, exercise
science and chronic disease and nutrition. BCH offers three doctoral degrees: a
Doctorate of Nursing Practice and a Doctorate of Physical Therapy and a
Doctorate in Clinical Nutrition. The College also houses two flagship programs—nursing as
well as nutrition and dietetics.
UNF, a nationally ranked university located on an environmentally
beautiful campus, offers students who are dedicated to enriching the lives of
others the opportunity to build their own futures through a well-rounded
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