Starting Point Reflects on COVID-19 and Shares a Message of Hope

Painting of Starting Point Behavioral Healthcare

Painting by Alissa Cook, Behavioral Health Counselor at Starting Point Behavioral Healthcare

It is not lost on our organization that March highlights the 1-year anniversary of the World Health Organization identifying COVID-19 as a pandemic and the Florida Governor issuing an executive order to close schools and businesses except for essential workers. At the time, we all thought this would be temporary and we would be back to ‘normal’ within a couple of months. A lot has happened in the world, this country, our state, and at Starting Point. Countless lives have been lost as a direct result of having the Coronavirus and countless more due to the indirect negative impact and toll the virus has taken. As a Behavioral Healthcare organization treating mental health and substance use disorders, we understand all too well that there is an emotional price to the loss, the isolation, and the despair that the pandemic has caused. We also know, and have seen first-hand, that there is healing and hope on the other side.

As an agency, we have worked extremely hard over the past year to reach out to our neighbors here in Nassau County, to foster a sense of community (even it was virtual), and to inspire hope and optimism in our staff and the individuals we continued to serve every single day. Below is a short list of some of the things we were able to accomplish during the pandemic. While it may not be exhaustive, it certainly says a lot about the strength of the human spirit and what can be accomplished if we work together. I am honored to work with such a dedicated and committed group of people and to serve our wonderfully resilient neighbors in Nassau County and Northeast Florida.

  • Distributed Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to ensure the safety and well-being of our neighbors in Nassau County and Northeast Florida
  • Implemented a new Telehealth platform and transitioned to virtual care within a week’s time ensuring no service was interrupted for Nassau County residents
  • Expanded offices and built new “Zoom”/Telehealth rooms ensuring individuals without internet access were able to continue the treatment services they relied on
  • Started a virtual support group (Being Well, Starting Now) inviting Northeast Florida community members to discuss the effects of mental health and substance use issues
  • Implemented a substance use and violence prevention program (Life Skills) in every 3rd-grade classroom in Nassau County Public Schools
  • Launched two Family Support Groups (One in Fernandina Beach, FL and one in Hilliard, FL) for family members and friends who have lost a loved one to suicide or overdose
  • Implemented a certification course (Teen Mental Health First Aid) for teens to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental health or substance use issues in their friends and peers
  • Created a Diversity Steering Committee, and joined the National Council’s TI-ROC program as 1 of only 20 agencies nationwide, which launched SPBH on a path to a better understanding of diversity, equity and inclusion, tolerance, racial injustice, resilience, and trauma-informed practices.
  • Started a new Adult Drug Court program to offer non-violent felony offenders an opportunity to make changes to better their lives
  • Launched a skills and support group (Teens Supporting Teens) for Nassau County teenagers to discuss any challenges they face and connect with others that relate to their experiences
Starting Point Behavioral Healthcare's Diversity Steering Committee posing for picture at Shucker's Oyster Bar & Grill
Starting Point’s Diversity Steering Committee celebrating acceptance into TI-ROC at Shucker’s Oyster Bar & Grill

While I am personally proud of the work our agency was able to accomplish in such a tough year, I am equally as proud and humbled by the stories of healing from our Nassau County neighbors.


I’d invite you, if you haven’t had the chance, to read the stories of three individuals who were able to find hope and healing despite facing behavioral health challenges. Stories like this are the reason we have dedicated nearly 30 years to promoting emotional wellness in Nassau County. It is my mission to let every single person in this county know that healing is possible and that Healing Begins Here at Starting Point.

As we look towards the future, we know that now, more than ever, is the time to support one another, to offer strength and resilience, and to extend care and compassion. We also know that it takes dedicated community members like you to continue the work. From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank each and every one of you for your continued support. Because of you, stories of healing are created right here every single day.

In service,

Laureen Pagel

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