With a mental health professional shortage occurring in Northeast Florida and across the country, six Jacksonville health care systems have joined together to collectively donate $900,000 to the University of North Florida (UNF). The funding will help alleviate the mental health crisis by funding UNF’s Mental Health Graduate Nursing Program which educates mental health nurse practitioners who hold doctorate degrees in nursing practice.

Northeast Florida is experiencing higher suicide rates across all age sectors compared to the rest of the state, according to 2014 statistics from the Jacksonville Community Council Inc. Studies estimate that 270,000 of the 1.1 million adults in Northeast Florida are living with mental illness, with 4 percent of those adults living with severe mental illness.

Part of the health systems funding will go toward establishing a non-endowed professorship in Mental Health Graduate Nursing for a five-year period, paying the salary of an outstanding faculty member in the field of psychiatric/mental health nursing. UNF will take over funding for this position once the donated funding stream has ended.

UNF’s Brooks College of Health (BCH) already offers a Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling which prepares mental health counselors to provide direct counseling services to individuals, groups, and families. Combined with the new Mental Health Graduate Nursing Program, BCH will prepare mental health professionals who will significantly impact Northeast Florida. BCH also hopes for improved mental health care, and decreased social issues like homelessness and addiction.

To learn more about UNF’s mental health graduate nursing programs and the new health care systems funding, visit here.

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