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A trio of Beaches-area mayors, several local business owners and residents were on hand last week for the official ribbon-cutting of a new facility designed to offer hope to the hopeless.

Here Tomorrow is a nonprofit organization serving the Beaches communities and Northeast Florida with a mission to prevent suicide by building a community where mental healthcare is acceptable and accessible. The organization opened its doors in January and offers a warm, welcoming physical and virtual space to have conversations about mental health.

In 2019, in Duval and St. Johns counties alone, 230 community residents died due to suicide, the most preventable form of death. The hearts of countless families and loved ones were shattered with the finality of death and unspeakable loss.

“Here Tomorrow exists to face this problem head on and reimagine how we as a community can come together to solve it,” says Joe Kenney, Here Tomorrow’s board chair and chief benefactor.

Most large national suicide prevention organizations primarily focus on research and education. Here Tomorrow provides community education to increase awareness but is taking a step further by utilizing innovative approaches to connect with those who are most at-risk, and through community collaboration, link them with the help they need when they need it.

Hannah Hackworth, executive director of Here Tomorrow, developed the core service model, in consultation with international suicide prevention expert, Paul Quinnett. He advised that by solving the problems that people kill themselves to solve, the reasons for suicide disappear.

“We are not planning to wait for those most at-risk for suicide to come to us and ask for help,” Hackworth said. “We intend to collaborate with primary healthcare offices, emergency departments, inpatient psychiatric units and law enforcement to identify and engage people before it’s too late.”

Quinnett added that those who are most at-risk for suicide are least likely to ask for help.

"If we require them to ask for help, they will continue to die," he said.

The nonprofit’s workforce is primarily made up of recovery peer specialists, individuals who are in recovery from a mental health condition and have been trained to support others on their recovery journey.

Miss Fletcher 2021, Logan Smedley (second from left) chats with visitors and Here Tomorrow staff during the facility's grand opening.
Miss Fletcher 2021, Logan Smedley (second from left) chats with visitors and Here Tomorrow staff during the facility's grand opening.

“Change is a process and people thinking about seeking professional help and those who love them need support, answers to their questions and someone to listen who truly understands,” said Hackworth.

Kenney’s connection to Here Tomorrow stems from personal loss. His son Gary, age 30, committed suicide in 2019. Prior to his son’s death, Kenney did everything he could to help the young man, who was battling severe depression. When they needed help the most, Kenney found a health care system that was not equipped to advise him or help to keep him safe.

On the day of his son's funeral, Kenney decided to create something that didn’t exist, an entity designed to be there for people who are feeling hopeless and for families who have no place to turn to for help.

Core services provided by Here Tomorrow include crisis support, family support, mental health support, linkage to mental health practitioners and social services and systematic follow-up phone calls over the course of a year.

“We are committed to eliminating the barriers to accessing mental healthcare including affordability and availability of care. Nationally, people wait an average of more than 30 days for their first mental healthcare appointment. We are changing that through collaboration with stakeholders across our community and our virtual therapy platform partner Choosing Therapy,” Hackworth said.

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The number of suicide deaths per 100,000 continues to climb in our community––from 12.9 per 100,000 (2000) to 17.4 per 100,000 (2019) in Duval County, and 9.1 per 100,000 (2000) to 18.3 per 100,000 (2019) in St. Johns County. Rates in both counties are higher than the state of Florida and national average.

According to the State of Florida Duval County Community Health Needs Assessment, participants named mental health as the number one public health challenge in Duval County and yet, until now, there has not been a single local organization with a primary focus on addressing the suicide epidemic in our community.

The increased social isolation occurring as Northeast Florida continues to navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic is magnifying this problem and putting at-risk individuals at even greater risk. Since the pandemic began the number of people experiencing suicidal thoughts have increased significantly, most dramatically among adults ages 18 to 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention.

For every suicide death, there are 20 people who attempt suicide. The CDC estimates total annual cost of suicides and nonfatal suicide attempts in the United States to be $93.5 billion.

“We are filling a critical gap in the existing system of care and together, as a community, we will expand our impact –– because lives depend on it,” Hackworth said.

In June, Here Tomorrow launched its first major partnership with United Way 2-1-1, which receives local calls to the National Suicide Hotline. Currently, Here Tomorrow is serving 274 community members, 225 “friends” (people experiencing hopelessness) and 49 family members (people worried about the safety of a loved one). They have linked 104 people with funded outpatient therapy and, through their partnership with Choosing Therapy and local therapy practices, have helped community and family members access outpatient therapy within zero to two days.

“When we opened our doors earlier this year, I thought, 'if Here Tomorrow can ensure that one son, one father, one brother, or one sister is here with us tomorrow,' it will all be worth it,” said Kenney. “We are now talking daily with people who are seriously contemplating suicide and offering real help and support when the stakes could not be higher.”

If you or someone you love is experiencing hopelessness and contemplating seeking help, contact Here Tomorrow, (904) 372-9087, or hello@heretomorrow.org. There is no cost for the support and follow-up services provided by Here Tomorrow.

Here Tomorrow is located at 910 Third St. in Neptune Beach. For more information and resources, visit HereTomorrow.org.

This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Nonprofit dedicated to mental health care opens in Neptune Beach

Source : https://news.yahoo.com/nonprofit-dedicated-mental-health-care-171323692.html

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