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Mental health, access to care, transportation among health care issues

Assessment finds most at risk are elderly, low-income

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Mental health, access to care and transportation are some of the biggest health care issues in northeast Florida, according to a new assessment.

It also found those most at risk are the elderly and low-income.

Leaders from major hospitals in the local area came together to talk about those issues Thursday. Almost all the hospitals identified mental health as a major priority. So they are working collectively on solving that issue and addressing the others brought up in the assessment.

Representatives from area hospitals -- all part of a group called the Jacksonville Metropolitan Community Benefit Partnership -- came together downtown to talk about the Community Health Needs Assessment study. It was done in 2015 to identify critical areas of health needs for communities across the region.

When it comes to who is most affected in Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau and St. Johns counties, the assessment found its people 65 and older and low-income families who make $25,000 or less.

It found that more than 50 percent of households in central Jacksonville fall into that category, which creates more challenges when it comes to access to health care services.

The assessment identified the most pressing issues when it comes to health care. They includes a combination of nutrition, physical activity and obesity, transportation, access, health disparities and mental health.

Almost every hospital in the area is dedicated to make mental health a priority, and even announced a campaign to help address the issue.

"Well, the initiative is mental health, mental health. And really it's training people to identify mental health needs much like someone might realize that someone needs CPR, and then training them in how to help that person gain access and to get past the stigma of mental illness," said Hugh Greene, president and CEO of Baptist Health.

The goal of that initiative is to train 10,000 people by 2019.