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An Open Letter to the Residents of St. Johns County and Neighboring Communities

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To the Residents of St. Johns County and Neighboring Communities:

I am writing to you as both the CEO of Flagler Hospital and as a father. As we are all painfully aware, mental health disorders affect the lives of so many children in our communities. The recent violence at The Landing here in Northeast Florida and in Parkland last school year are among the most horrific nightmares any parent can imagine. My prayers go out to the families of those who lost their lives and to all who have been affected in any way.

I also pray for those families who are quietly struggling right now with mental illness, and I want you to know that you are not alone. Like so many of you, I have experienced first-hand the effects that mental health disorders can have on a family. I share this vulnerability and pain. As CEO of Flagler Hospital, I am committed to having an open dialogue aimed at addressing this seriousissue. Often considered a taboo topic, especially among our youth, we must bring this out in the open and have frank conversations in order to change this dynamic.

There are no easy fixes for the complex problems linked with mental health, but that does not mean finding answers is impossible. Flagler Hospital is committed to pushing the quest for the necessary answers. We are already working closely with the St. Johns County School District, Epic Behavioral Healthcare, Children’s Home Society and Stewart-Marchman-Act Behavioral Healthcare to tackle issues across the behavioral health spectrum. We also look to our national partners to bring innovative programs, added expertise and services to this collaborative effort for our local area.

As we travel this road, I encourage you to get involved. The St. Johns County School District is hosting two events this month called “Parenting for a Healthier Tomorrow”. Ten local agencies will be on hand to address important issues like depression, anxiety, grief, suicide prevention and community health. Please join us on September 20th from 6pm-8pm at Liberty Pines Academy or September 27th from 6pm-8pm at Gamble Rogers Middle School.

I am fortunate to lead an organization made up of talented caregivers who understand, as I do, that helping others is what brings meaning to our own most painful experiences. Greater awareness regarding the struggles of those living with mental illness, especially our children, is one important step toward providing help. We are committed at Flagler Hospital to ensuring that these children and their families no longer suffer in solitude. Our promise is to achieve critical strides in making treatment more available for the communities we serve.


Jason Barrett, President & CEO