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UF Health St. JohnsPartners with Putnam County School District to Increase Adolescent Access to Mental Health Services

  • Category: News
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  • Written By: Erin Wallner
UF Health St. JohnsPartners with Putnam County School District to Increase Adolescent Access to Mental Health Services

St. Augustine, Fla. May 20, 2021 -- Care Connect+, a social health organization led by Flagler Health+, announced a partnership with the Putnam County School District today that will increase access to mental health services for the more than 10,000 students in all of the district’s 15 schools.

Be Resilient and Voice Emotions (B.R.A.V.E.) is a program that encourages area youth to get in touch with their mental health early on, be open to receiving help and supports access to behavioral health services via care navigation and technology. As part of Care Connect+, the program works with the whole family to address social determinants of health to ensure delivery of the right care, at the right time, in the right place.

UF Health St. Johnshas pledged $15,000 to the expansion of B.R.A.V.E. in Putnam County Schools. The pledge is expected to assist between 300 and 400 students with access to mental health services. B.R.A.V.E. offers multiple resources for families need, including care coordination and navigation services, access to virtual mental health counseling visits and a 24-hour crisis text line.

UF Health Care Connectalso recognizes that mental health services are often only a piece of the need. For this reason, they utilize a unified intake process, allowing staff to identify unmet social needs for the entire family, eligible resources, and the most appropriate behavioral health provider for the student. This includes services provided by Children’s Home Society, SMA Healthcare, All Therapies, and St. Augustine Youth Services.

In Florida, six out of 10 youth (66.8%) who are depressed and are most at-risk for depression do not receive any mental health treatment. According to the most recent Putnam County Community Health Needs Assessment, children under age 18 made up nearly 23% of all Baker Act initiations, notably higher than the state level of approximately 16%. And due to effects on mental health stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, experts agree that the need for mental health services is greater now than ever.

During the 2019/2020 school year, 400 Putnam County students were referred for counseling or mental health assessments. Only 175 of those students received care. Barriers to receiving treatment include lack of insurance, high insurance deductibles, transportation barriers, difficulties navigating the mental health services system and social stigma associated with receiving mental health services.

“There is no easy fix for addressing the complex issues around behavioral health that are facing our youth today. It is only through sustained resolve, investment and resources from every stakeholder in our community that we will eliminate stigma and increase much-needed access to care,” stated Jason Barrett, President and CEO of Flagler Health+.

“We are looking forward to working with the BRAVE program to help aid our students and parents with support to help them through difficult times. We feel very blessed to have this opportunity,” said Randy Hedstrom, Director of Student Services for the Putnam County School Board.

Launched by UF Health Care Connectin 2019 in partnership with the St. Johns County School District and with support from THE PLAYERS, the program has already made significant progress. Prior to B.R.A.V.E’s implementation, only 35% of students who were referred to mental health provider were actually seen by a medical professional. With the B.R.A.V.E program, that rate has increased to 93%.