Baptist Health to bring on mental health coordinator for Jacksonville kids

1 in 5 Duval County Students reported being suicidal in a 2019 survey, according to Baptist Health

Action News Jax Gets Real: Baptist Study - 1 in 5 high schoolers attempted suicide

Jacksonville, Fla. — Baptist Health is working to get a mental health coordinator for kids and teens in Northeast Florida thanks to the help of the Jim Moran Foundation.

The Foundation has offered to match up to $750,000 dollars in donations to Alex’s Dragonfly Endowment.

Alex Johnson was a bright, happy kid. But things took a turn for the worse when he developed depression and anxiety. “For people unable to manage their mental illness to turn to street drugs,” Alex’s mother, Sheryl Johnson, Founder and President of Hearts For Minds said.

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In 2017, every parent’s worst nightmare became a reality for Sheryl and her husband Todd. “[Alex] decided one day to go and try them to help make him feel better and he passed away of a fentanyl overdose,” Johnson explained.

In his memory, the Johnsons created Alex’s Dragonfly Coalition, an initiative that breaks down the stigma of mental illness. From that, Hearts4Minds was born.

The Johnsons work closely with Baptist Health. Their goal is to get a mental health coordinator that will serve roughly 300 young adults like Alex each year. It’s help, Johnson explains, that could’ve saved Alex’s life. “Mental illness is the same thing, the earlier we can get in front of it, just like other diseases, the higher the likelihood of positive treatment,” Johnson added.

The help is more important than ever, Dr. Terrie Andrews says. She’s the administrator of Baptist and Wolfson Children’s Behavioral Health. “What we’ve seen at Wolfson Children’s Hospital is a 300 percent increase in behavior health emergency admissions, it’s just significant,” Andrews explained. She says one-in-three Duval County students indicated they’re experiencing depression and anxiety.

For Johnson, just making a difference in one person’s life is all worth it. “That means we have created a lifetime legacy for Alex, and the number of lives that we can save are invaluable, can’t measure it,” Johnson said.

Baptist Health is expecting to hire the mental health coordinator in the next two months.

If you or someone you know needs help, there is a 24/7 Kids & Teens Helpline to call. That number is (904) 202-7900. The helpline is staffed by trained mental health experts and is free and confidential, Baptist Health says, adding that callers receive emergency telephone support and assessment, crisis stabilization information and referral to follow-up care, if needed.