JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The city of Jacksonville and a national service organization want to hear from the 250,000 veterans in Northeast Florida.
During a news conference Tuesday morning at City Hall, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and members of Endeavors, a Texas-based group dedicated to helping veterans, announced that they are looking to build a new veterans wellness center in Jacksonville that would serve all of Northeast Florida.
It would not be a hospital or a medical clinic, but the focus would be on behavioral health and providing more services for veterans that may not be available right now. Endeavors said it wants veterans to weigh in since the specifics have not been planned yet.
The group will begin to survey veterans and their families starting Wednesday. The group also plans to speak with veterans in the homeless community.
“The information we are hoping to gather from the survey will help us identify what are the top needs for veterans and their families here in the Jacksonville area,” said Ben Miranda, director of business operations at Endeavors.
Where the center will be built and the cost are not known. A similar wellness center that was built in Texas cost about $20 million. Endeavors said the price of the Jacksonville center would not only be covered by the city but from grants and other programs.
“We will reach out to the city, the state and federal government for grants that are open and available to serve veterans for particular programming — mental health care, behavioral health care, holistic approaches, wellness center approaches,” Miranda said. “So it’s a combination of a lot.”
This is something that local veterans say is needed.
Navy veteran Ernest Therrien, who is just about to turn 80, served in Vietnam from 1961 to 1967. News4JAX spoke with him about the services that are available to veterans like him.
“There can never be enough because there’s so many of us that have problems, and sometimes we have to wait a month or two before we get an appointment,” Therrien said.
Veterans can take the online survey here. It will be open until Sept. 21. Then the results will be available in November.
Endeavors said that it acts quickly and that Jacksonville could see construction begin sometime within a year.