New Behavioral Health Network To Launch | Health

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New Behavioral Health Network To Launch

There is an urgent need for mental health and substance abuse treatment in our city.  One out of four children deal with behavioral health issues each year.  Studies show that 22 percent of Jacksonville’s population- more than 188,000 people- have a mental disorder during a one-year period.   Of people with severe mental disorders, 27 percent of them use illegal drugs each year.  Twelve percent of all residents use illegal drugs annually.  Thousands of Jacksonville residents are not getting the mental health and substance abuse treatment that they need.

To make the community aware of the critical need for help, and to inform people in need about resources that are available to help them, the Behavioral Health Network of Northeast Florida is being launched.  This is the first-ever effort to bring together the resources of agencies that assist people with substance abuse and mental health issues, people in recovery from mental health and substance abuse disorders, and family members affected by mental health disorders, all with the purpose of transforming Jacksonville’s behavioral health system.  The network will hold a kick-off event that is free to the public on Wednesday, March 9, 2011 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.  at the Jacksonville Public Library’s Downtown Library, 303 North Laura Street.  This event will also take place at Hemming Plaza next to the Library.

“Police will tell you that the jail and the prison system are the primary providers of mental health resources in our community.  Providers will tell you that despite their commitment to care for people needing assistance, they are overwhelmed with a massive demand for services. Families will tell you that they are struggling every day to get access to care,” said Jeff Goldhagen, M.D., Professor and Chief of the Division of Community Pediatrics at the University of Florida College of
Medicine-Jacksonville.   In addition to being one of Jacksonville’s most respected voices on health issues, Dr. Goldhagen is serving as Acting Chair of the new Behavioral Health Network.

“The formation of this new Behavioral Health Network is the most important thing that’s ever happened regarding mental health and substance abuse treatment in Jacksonville,” said Dr. Goldhagen.  “Not only do so many people in our community need treatment, but mental health and substance abuse issues affect all of us.  Most people know someone who is in need of
assistance.  Additionally, if people in need don’t get treatment, it may affect public safety, our prison system, and every indicator of our community’s well-being.   Many of the critical issues that are challenging Jacksonville right now have their roots in behavioral health conditions. The intent of this new network is to create a partnership, bringing together  people who need mental health and substance abuse treatment with public and private sector providers and stakeholders.  The purpose of this network is to establish a much stronger and united voice in the community to advance access and financing for treatment and other resources.”

Speakers at Wednesday’s event include Dr. Goldhagen, Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford, and Florida Department of Children and Families Circuit 4 Mental Health and Substance Abuse Program Supervisor Cindy Vallely, as well as doctors, mental health professionals and people who are dealing with mental illness and can talk about how it affects their lives. Additionally, several powerful movies will be shown that tell the stories of people who struggle with substance abuse and mental health issues on a daily basis.

For more information on the new Behavioral Health Network of Northeast Florida, you can visit their website at:


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