The problem no one talks about

The problem no one talks about

UF, Jacksonville agencies receive $9 million for children’s mental health

By Lorrie DeFrank

Jeffrey Goldhagen

A UF College of Medicine-Jacksonville professor played a lead role in winning a $9 million grant to develop a system of care to treat mental illness in Duval County children and youth.

Jeffrey Goldhagen, M.D., M.P.H., chief of the division of community pediatrics, is principal investigator and a main author of the Child Mental Health Initiative Grant from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

“As a result of this award, we will have the resources required to build a comprehensive family-driven and youth-guided system of care for children with serious emotional disturbances,” Goldhagen said. “We will initially focus on children and youth in the child welfare, foster care and juvenile justice systems, homeless children and children in subsidized early learning programs.”

The grant will expand the capacity for early identification and treatment, and improve access to appropriate, quality mental health services.

More than one-quarter of children and youth suffer from a mental health condition at some point, according to Goldhagen, who considers mental health among the most critical and neglected issues in pediatrics. He maintains that early brain development is crucial to the health and well-being of children and the adults they will become and that serious mental health disorders are the root causes of many health, social and behavioral problems.

“With the fragmented system we have now, even when children are screened for mental health problems, only a fraction receive further evaluation or treatment,” Goldhagen said. “This grant will bring all of our community’s stakeholders in children’s mental health, including children and their families, together to help ensure the optimal mental health and well-being of our children.”

Dozens of agencies, including the UF College of Medicine, Wolfson Children’s Hospital, Nemours Children’s Clinic, the city of Jacksonville, the Duval County Health Department, the Duval County School District, the Department of Children and Families, Mental Health America, Family Support Services, the Early Learning Coalition and the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, will collaborate on the six-year program.

The funds will go to the Jacksonville Children’s Commission and be disbursed through the Partnership for Child Health, of which Goldhagen is medical director. The Center for Health Equity and Quality Research, a collaboration between the UFCOM-Jacksonville and the Duval County Health Department, will take the lead in evaluating the initiative and developing the information technology infrastructure to support the system of care.