Jacksonville is one of the biggest cities in Florida, located in the northeastern part of the state along the Atlantic Ocean in Duval County. As a sprawling urban area with a racially diverse population, Jacksonville and Duval County residents own their own homes and graduate from high school less frequently than residents of the other counties in Florida, the Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) published in 2015 reports. The unemployment rate for Jacksonville residents in 2013 was 7.8 percent, which was higher than the Florida average of 6.2 percent and the US average of 5.8 percent.
Residents of Duval County were less likely to have health insurance than the general population of the US, as 17.1 percent were uninsured in 2013 compared to a national average of 14.8 percent. Within Duval County, Jacksonville had the highest percentage of people below the poverty level, at 16.9 percent in 2013, compared to the county rate of 16.6 percent, the state rate of 16 percent, and the national average of 15 percent, the Community Health Needs Assessment: 2016 Report indicates. All of these factors can contribute to high levels of stress and an increased risk for drug abuse and mental health concerns.
The 2015 CHNA reports that one out of every eight emergency room visits in Duval County in 2012 involved mental health concerns, and one out of every five children in the county suffers from symptoms of a mental health disorder each year. The suicide rate in Duval County is higher than state averages; in 2015, approximately 15.3 per 100,000 residents died from suicide compared to a Florida state average of 13.8 per 100,000 residents. More people die from suicide in Duval County than homicide.
Florida also ranks 49th out of all 50 states in mental health spending and funding, the Florida Times-Union reports. On average, Floridians suffer from alcohol abuse and addiction and illicit drug abuse and addiction at rates that are similar to that the general population of the US, the Behavioral Health Barometer: Florida, 2015 publishes.
Between 2012 and 2013, about 6 percent of Floridians struggled with alcohol abuse or addiction while the national average was 6.5 percent, and 2.4 percent of Florida residents battled illicit drug abuse or addiction compared to a national average of 2.6 percent.
Drug overdose rates for Florida are at epidemic levels. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports, they jumped almost a quarter between 2014 and 2015. Mental health and substance abuse treatment services are often contained under “behavioral health” programs and services. The CHNA publishes that there are 160 behavioral health agencies and resources for Jacksonville residents in Duval County.
Drug Use and Abuse in Jacksonville and Duval County, Florida
Teenagers in northeastern Florida abuse drugs at higher rates than those in the rest of the Florida and across the nation as a whole do. A higher percentage of high students attending Duval Public Schools were current users of marijuana than students throughout Florida and within the US, as the Youth Risk Behavior Survey: Duval County High School Students 2015 publishes. A quarter of all high school students were currently using marijuana at the time of the 2015 survey compared to a Florida average of 21.5 percent and national average of 23.4 percent. Duval County high school students also reported more access to illegal drugs on school property than the average Florida or American teen: 29 percent for Duval County students versus an 18.4 percent Florida average and US average of 22.1 percent.
More teens report lifetime drug use in Duval County as well. News4Jax publishes that 35 percent of Duval County’s children report lifetime drug use as opposed to state average of 30 percent.
The Drugs Identified in Deceased Persons by Florida Medical Examiners: 2016 Annual Report indicates that alcohol is the number one substance found in overdose deaths, followed by benzodiazepines, cocaine, cannabinoids, and morphine, which likely includes heroin as it is quickly metabolized into morphine in the bloodstream. Excessive drinking rates are higher for Duval County residents than national averages suggest (16 percent for Duval County residents versus a US average of 15 percent in 2015).
The North Florida High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Drug Market Analysis publishes that cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, and prescription drug abuse are issues in the area, and Jacksonville is the primary drug market in the region. Opioid overdose deaths are at all-time highs all over the country, and Florida has been hit especially hard. There were 464 heroin overdose in Jacksonville in 2016, over a 130 percent increase from the previous year’s numbers and double the number of non-fatal overdoses with more than 3,000 recorded in 2016, News4Jax reports.
Part of the reason for the sharp increase in heroin and opioid deaths is related to the influx of fentanyl into Florida.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that can be made in labs, making it cheaper and easier to get than heroin. It is often used to “cut” and “stretch” the more expensive opiate. The issue lies in the fact that fentanyl is 50-100 times more potent than morphine, and it can be lethal in very small amounts, especially if the person taking it doesn’t realize that it is present.
Within Northeast Florida’s District Four, which includes Duval, Nassau, Columbia, Clay, and Hamilton counties, the administration of the opioid reversal drug Narcan (naloxone) has increased. The Florida Times-Union publishes that in just the first four months of 2016, fire and rescue personnel administered the antidote 708 times. Florida does have a Good Samaritan law in place that protects people who try to help others suffering from an overdose from any criminal or legal action. Individuals who report an overdose are also immune to any drug-related charges themselves. As of 2016, the Tampa Bay Times publishes that Florida residents can even obtain Narcan without a prescription as all Florida CVS pharmacies stock the drug.
Drugs, Crime, and Specialty Courts
The crime rate in Duval County is significantly higher than in the rest of the state of Florida, the CHNA reports. For example, in 2013, the murder rate was 75 percent higher in Duval County, and there were 50-75 percent more forcible sexual offenses.
Drugs, alcohol, and crime often go hand in hand, as the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) publishes that close to 80 percent of all offenses in the US that end up leading to an incarceration likely involve drugs or alcohol in some capacity. Mental illness can also play a role, and the CHNA reports that around 10 percent of the inmates in the Duval County Jail struggle with persistent and severe mental illness.
Within the state of Florida, under the Baker Act, individuals can be involuntarily committed to a mental health treatment program. The CHNA publishes that involuntary commitments jumped from 4,458 in 1999 to 6,751 in 2012. Similar to the Baker Act, loved ones can also invoke the Marchmann Act to get a person help without their consent when individuals are unable to help themselves due to substance use and abuse.
There are also several drug courts in Duval County that can help people get substance abuse and addiction treatment services for nonviolent and drug-related offenses as an alternative to incarceration. The Duval County Mental Health Court provides similar services to those with mental health needs.
Jacksonville’s Public Behavioral Health Treatment Services
In Florida, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health (SAMH) Program is the governing state authority for substance abuse and mental healthcare services. Housed under the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) and partnering with the Florida Department of Health (DOH), the SAMH Program manages public behavioral health services for Florida residents. Public services are provided to anyone who needs help, even if they can’t pay for it or don’t have insurance. For residents of Jacksonville, state-based mental health and substance abuse services are managed through the Lutheran Services of Florida, which is one of the seven “managing entities” that is contracted to handle regional behavioral health care. Services are then contracted out to specific providers.
The Duval County Health Department is a public and state-local partnership that is a resource for Jacksonville residents.
Within the public behavioral health care system, substance abuse treatment services include detox services, treatment services, and recovery support that are offered by community-based providers, the Florida DCF publishes. Mental health services are contracted out to private and community-based providers within Florida. The Florida DOH in Duval County’s Department of Behavioral Health Services offers resources and information regarding clinical behavioral health services for Duval County residents.
The Florida DCF publishes a list of licensed substance abuse providers broken down by city so residents can find local treatment services. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) also hosts a Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator to help people find mental health and substance abuse treatment resources.
Nonprofit and community coalitions as well as private addiction treatment programs offer mental health, drug abuse prevention, addiction treatment, and recovery support services for Jacksonville residents.
These programs may include various services, such as:
- Assessment and evaluation of needs
- Preventative measures
- Crisis stabilization
- Case management
- Counseling and therapy
- Residential, intensive outpatient, and outpatient programs and services
- Life skills trainings, education, and workshops
- Treatment for co-occurring disorders
- Transitional services
- Medication management
- Peer-based support services
- Recovery support and aftercare programs
Transitional services are beneficial after finishing up a residential addiction treatment program. They can help a person enter back into society slowly to promote long-term recovery. The Florida DCF provides a list of certified recovery residences so locals can find sober living homes and transitional services nearby.
Additional Addiction and Mental Health Resources In and Around Jacksonville
Private treatment programs offer more amenities and programs than publicly funded options, such as private rooms, luxury accommodations, holistic methods, gourmet meals, fitness centers, and specialty services. These facilities are self-pay, though they may take health insurance and offer payment plans to accommodate financial needs. They are often more accessible more quickly, as public treatment programs regularly have waiting lists. Private programs may have more openings right away. Private substance abuse and addiction treatment programs in Florida are regulated and licensed through the SAMH Program Office.
Community and nonprofit organizations provide localized behavioral health programs and services for Jacksonville residents. Some options include:
- Florida Alcohol & Drug Abuse Association (FADAA): hosts a wide range of prevention, education, and treatment resources for Florida residents
- Anti-drug coalitions in Florida: local services for drug abuse prevention
- Florida Suicide Prevention Hotline and the Florida Suicide Prevention Coalition: work to manage crises and prevent suicide
- United Way of Northeast Florida: offers community-based programs and services designed to improve the overall health and wellness of the surrounding areas
- Northeast Florida Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse(NEFCADA): offers community education and substance abuse prevention measures
- Jacksonville-based Project SOS (Strengthening Our Society): a partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of Northeast Florida that strives to educate teens regarding the hazards of drug abuse and provide resources for adolescents
- Mental Health Resource Center (MHRC): provides behavioral health treatment services and resources to Jacksonville and local residents
- Tobacco-Free Florida: offers tobacco prevention services
- We Care Jacksonville: a nonprofit organization that provides specialty medical services to homeless, low-income, and uninsured adults residing in Duval County; a volunteer coalition made up of church groups, healthcare professionals, and clerical personnel
It’s Never Too Late to Get Help
Take Action Now