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Supporting our community in times of crisis and beyond
In this Baptist Health update to the community, learn about our new COVID-19 hotline and how it's helped community members get their questions answered, the 24/7 kids and teens crisis helpline, and our #FluVaxJax initiative and how it's on track to surpass our vaccination goal.
Baptist Health's COVID-19 hotline up and running in a matter of weeks
Last spring, when the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a pandemic, many people had questions and concerns about the coronavirus.

Some were experiencing symptoms. Others were concerned about potential exposure.
In short, they all needed answers.

That’s when Baptist Health, like numerous other health systems around the country, decided to establish a COVID-19 hotline to specifically address COVID-19 concerns.

Since launching in late April, the hotline has received more than 3,000 calls from the community.

“The goal is to help redirect patients to the most appropriate level of care, so they don’t end up in one of our Emergency Centers or Primary Care offices, unnecessarily,” said Karen Coleman, MS, director of Corporate Health and Women’s Strategy for Baptist Health.

“Due to the urgency of the situation and an incredible system-wide effort, we were able to get a dedicated hotline up and running in a matter of weeks, not months. Our team worked seven days a week to make that happen.”

How it works

If someone is calling the hotline with general COVID-19 information, a non-clinical operator can answer their questions and give them guidance, based on approved medical protocols related to COVID-19. If the caller is worried they may have COVID-19 symptoms, they are connected to another line where they can speak live with a Baptist nurse.

Clinical operator Michelle Charette, BSN, is an ER nurse at Baptist Clay.

Nearly 30 team members have supported the hotline as operators, including Baptist Health wellness coaches, Y Healthy Living Centers coordinators, registered nurses with Corporate and Women’s Health, and staff members with THE PLAYERS Center for Child Health.

 “At first, what we found was that majority of callers didn’t have symptoms, they were just very concerned about the virus. So we had our health and wellness coaches talk to them, calm their fears and direct them to the right place. The remaining callers with symptoms were passed on to a nurse.”

During the height of the pandemic, the hotline ran seven days a week, from 7 am to 5 pm. Today, it’s running five days a week (8 am - 5 pm) and is prepared to expand to seven days again if the need arises.
“I’m really proud of how quickly everyone on our team transitioned from their normal, day-to-day positions to help staff the line and make this effort happen for our community.”
Call before a crisis - 24/7 kids and teens helpline


This staggering figure accounts for the increase in admissions to the Wolfson Children’s Hospital inpatient Behavioral Health Unit compared to this same time last year. Behind this number, though, are more than 700 children and adolescents who needed immediate mental health hospitalization and acute care at Wolfson Children’s.

There’s no doubt the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the mental health of adults, who – on top of being most at-risk for serious complications from the virus – are balancing social isolation, remote work or even job loss, and the unenviable decision of whether to send little ones back to the classroom or keep them home. But what about the kids?

Gone are the days (temporarily, at least) of greeting friends in the school gymnasium with hugs. Masks cover smiles. And that birthday party? A drive-through neighborhood parade isn’t quite the same celebration.

While the pandemic has undoubtedly taken a toll on the mental health of kids and teens, Terrie Andrews, PhD, a clinical psychologist and system administrator for Baptist Behavioral Health, said the circumstances surrounding COVID-19 only exacerbated an already-existing crisis.

“We’ve seen a significant increase in suicidal behaviors, ideation and attempts in children and teens for some time now,” Dr. Andrews said. “While some of this can likely be attributed to the pandemic, we know that social media, cyberbullying, and a number of other factors also contribute to mental health emergencies.”

Data from the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey shows nearly 40% of high school students in Duval County Public Schools reported extended feelings of sadness or hopelessness that interfered with their usual activities. Nearly 20% had attempted suicide in the year leading up to the survey.

While the words “crisis” and “emergency” are so strong, the signs of a serious mental health issue are often subtle.

Children and teens may not verbalize when they are struggling with their mental health, instead choosing to use generic statements such as:

  • “I don’t want to be here anymore.”
  • “I hate it here.”
  • “I’m tired of this place.”
  • “I don’t want to do this anymore.”
Other indicators a child may need help include:
  • Hopelessness
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Isolation
  • Substance abuse
  • Being bullied
  • Past attempts at self-harm
  • Attempted or carried-out suicide of a friend or family member
  • Recent increase in mental health symptoms that were previously well-managed
The key is to intervene before a child is in crisis. Behavioral health has been and continues to be a priority for all Baptist Health hospitals, including Wolfson Children’s Hospital. Wolfson Children’s and Baptist Behavioral Health have resources available around the clock for parents, kids and teens.

The 24/7 Kids & Teens Helpline (904.202.7900) is staffed by trained mental health experts and is free and confidential. Callers receive emergency telephone support and assessment, crisis stabilization information and referral to follow-up care, if needed.

“Unfortunately, there is still a stigma surrounding mental health, so some children and parents may not feel comfortable talking about it with people they know,” Dr. Andrews said. “We’re working to fight that stigma every day. We hope our Helpline is a safe space for people to get the help and resources they need so they never end up in the Emergency Department or admitted to our inpatient Behavioral Health Unit at Wolfson Children’s Hospital.”

To learn more about the 24/7 Kids & Teens Helpline, visit
#FluVaxJax initiative set to surpass vaccination goal

The Duval County Medical Society (DCMS) Foundation — in partnership with Baptist Health and other local hospitals/health systems, pharmacies, school districts, colleges, grocers and organizations — launched the #FluVaxJax campaign on Sept. 9, 2020, with the goal of increasing the rate of influenza vaccinations in the First Coast five-county region.

In 2016, the last year in which complete vaccination data was available, the First Coast had a 36.9% flu vaccination rate among adults. #FluVaxJax campaign leaders hope to reach a flu vaccination rate of at least 48% of adults. The campaign will be active throughout flu season, which runs through the end of March.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), along with many other governing bodies in medicine, have recommended the flu shot for years. In 2020, it became more important than ever for community members to receive the vaccine, both to protect themselves and others from the flu — which could lead to added complications in someone also exposed to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 — and to prevent additional strain on local health systems.

Baptist Health and Wolfson Children’s Hospital promoted the #FluVaxJax initiative consistently via local media outreach, social media channels, and Baptist Health’s newshub, Juice. This included spreading the message that it’s important to keep seeking care for vaccinations during the pandemic, especially for children.

Only halfway through flu season, data shows our five-county region has surpassed the 2016 vaccination rate, and is currently around 43.6%. As of Dec. 8, 2020, 807 people have received flu shots directly from clinics coordinated by Baptist Health, UF Health Jacksonville, Ascension/St. Vincent’s, Mayo Clinic, Brooks Rehabilitation and county health departments. Additionally, the #FluVaxJax campaign website has received approximately 1,300 requests for free flu shot vouchers from uninsured residents across the region.

And, thanks to community outreach and messaging around the importance of the flu vaccine, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, the #FluVaxJax website was visited by nearly 5,000 readers. Spreading evidence-based educational content will hopefully bring more area residents into care settings where they can receive their flu shot, or prompt them to ask about it at their next doctor’s appointment.

For more information about #FluVaxJax and the current flu vaccination rate, visit
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