Helping at-risk fathers become better dads

By Ashley Harding - Reporter, Crystal Chen - Assignment editor/reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A panel at the MOSH museum is hoping to offer help to at-risk fathers in the River City. 

People from the public are invited to attend and be part of the discussion. The focus will be helping fathers fight some serious issues.

According to the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition, Northeast Florida has experienced unprecedented opioid addiction and overdoses. This issue, coupled with an ongoing mental health crisis and lack of access to services, is severely impacting fathers in the community.

With this panel, they can start to thinking outside the box, discuss these crises, and what the community can do to help these fathers. 

Issues for At-Risk Fathers 

According to one panelist, there are so many resources available for mothers. Fathers, however, are a forgotten group in many ways.

Some of the issues they want to address include mental health and addiction. Issues often seen in at-risk fathers include drug abuse- especially opioids, poor mental health, and problems functioning in society after prison.

One father said he knows what it’s like to need help. He explains it's like a depressive state and you feel like you're on your own.

However, asking for help can be a challenge.

"As men, you're looked at to be one that can handle it all, you can take on everything. It's so far from the truth, it's sad," said James Dawsey, a local father.

The Effect on Children

When fathers suffer, the impact extends to their children.

According to Kenneth Scarborough with the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition, at-risk dads are in danger of passing that cycle of drug abuse and poor mental health onto their children, without the proper resources.

"The research has told us that kids do better, socially, educationally, behaviorally, all those things are greatly improved when he is present and involved,” said Scarborough who is on Wednesday night’s panel.

Getting Help and Support

Dawsey is among a group of men on a mission to be the best fathers possible, and to inspire other at-risk dads to get the guidance they need. 

The support they have found is through the Fatherhood PRIDE program with Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition.

Before the program, Dawsey said he had trouble fully connecting with his five children. Depression and life events were factors, but with the support, things are turning around.

"Just being around them, it makes me happy just being around them, because they're a little you," said Dawsey.  Things with his children are getting a lot better because he is getting a lot better.

Dawsey's message to at-risk dads is to reach out, and not wait.

"Without the help, you'll continue to go down the same cycle, and you'll find no positivity by the end of your life," said Dawsey.

Panel Details

The Dads at a Disadvantage panel Wednesday night aims to bridge the gap and address issues often seen in at-risk fathers.

There will be a number of speakers including Councilman Bill Gulliford, and other speakers in the fields of mental health and opioids at Wednesday night’s panel. News4Jax anchor Melanie Lawson will be there to moderate.

It is free to the public and takes place at the MOSH museum from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Dads at a Disadvantage

 MORE INFORMATION:
 Dads at a Disadvantage: A listening session on opioids and mental health

This is one of three events held across the country in partnership with Baltimore’s Center for Urban Families, the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse and the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services/Administration for Children and Families/Office of Family Assistance.

Addiction, especially opioid abuse will be a big part of the panel since every day, more than 115 Americans die after overdosing on opioids.

According to the March 2018 update from NIH National Institute on Drug Abuse:

  • CDC estimates that the total “economic burden is $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.
  • Roughly 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them
  • Between 8 and 12 percent develop an opioid use disorder
  • An estimated 4 to 6 percent who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin
  • About 80 percent of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids
  • Opioid overdoses increased 30 percent from July 2016 through September 2017 in 52 areas in 45 states
  • Opioid overdoses in large cities increased by 54 percent in 16 states

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