UF Health St. Johns expands mental health services


UF Health St. Johns hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday, May 1, in celebration of its newly expanded Behavioral Health Resource Center. This expansion is the latest effort in the hospital’s role in supporting mental health needs in Northeast Florida and in setting a national standard for addressing behavioral health challenges.

The Behavioral Health Resource Center provides access to and coordination of mental and behavioral health services, particularly for youth and adults who are in crisis or in urgent need of mental health care.

“We are excited to see this expansion come to life,” said Valerie Duquette, director of the UF Health Behavioral Health Resource Center. “It’s the logical next step in this program. We want to reach as many people in need as possible while making everyone feel welcome, regardless of what they may be experiencing. Crisis looks different for everyone, but we want people to know that we care, and we are here to help, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

The Behavioral Health Resource Center’s goal is to centralize care and expand access to mental health and substance use help for St. Johns County and surrounding areas, Duquette said.

Launched in 2022, the Behavioral Health Resource Center quickly filled an important gap in the St. Johns County area by reducing wait times to see providers and cutting down on emergency room visits. In its first year, the center saw nearly 1,000 visits with about 450 patients and expanded from weekday-only patients to serving the community 24 hours per day, seven days per week. Approximately 20% of these visits would likely have resulted in the patient being seen in the emergency room had the Behavioral Health Resource Center not been an option.

“I want to thank our partners in the legislature; our local delegation, Rep. Cyndi Stevenson, Sen. Travis Hudson, as well as Speaker Chris Sprowls, Speaker Paul Renner, Rep. Josie Tomkow and Rep. Dana Trabulsy,” said Carlton DeVooght, president and CEO of UF Health St. Johns. “Their leadership on this project was invaluable and without them we would not be here today. And of course, Gov. Ron DeSantis and first lady Casey DeSantis who played a key role in the development of the UF Health St. Johns Behavioral Health Resource Center and other projects assisting with mental and behavioral health programs in our community. What began as a local idea became regional and has now blossomed into statewide programs no one else can match.”