Nicole Cook, an associate professor in the Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Osteopathic Medicine, alongside collaborative partners of Broward County Public Schools, Children’s Services Council and Broward Behavioral Health Coalition, received a $300,000 grant from the Florida Blue Foundation to support the local communities that face care barriers for matters of mental health.
Cook is a public health professional who, for the past 20 years, has worked with vulnerable communities and populations that face access-to-care barriers. Cook attempted to figure out how to improve access for families and individuals that bare the brunt of these disparities. For Cook, her passion for public health grew from how her family and community were affected by the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL in February 2018.
“I used my background to help support resilience services and access to care in the community and that is when I noticed that it was hard to disseminate information or education to those with English as a second language and other similar cultural and community disparities,” Cook said. “In the U.S., we know that 31.5% of children feel helpless or have expressed feeling helpless for a period of time. We have a national epidemic going on and we also know from the data that within non-white traditional communities that stigma could be even greater.”
NSU plans to invite and involve these community members to help them figure out what works for them and how they want their messaging and education on the topics. Cook explained that they hope to accomplish this goal by forming parent committees made up of parents with children in the school district and have them share their unique cultural experiences that may impact mental health education and disparities. This type of engagement in the conversation of mental health may help to reach an end goal: to find the best way to provide for each specific community by bridging the gap that currently stands.
By working alongside the partners in this grant that are already involved in these communities, the collaborators hope that this grant and it’s actions can act as an additional component to these resources and augment and support these services through this perspective.
An important component of this integration is to ensure that the findings and conversations from these committees can support the development of the educational content and highlight topics the community feels comfortable speaking about in a way that touches upon the importance of wellness in the mental health conversation.
“We want to provide [these communities] the information they need in digestible formats so that they have the building blocks to at least ask the right questions and have the ability to access the resources they need. Ideally, we want to spark a culture change. That is our ultimate goal and although it is lofty, but we have to start somewhere,” said Cook.