|Members: Randy, Alex and Mike in Vincent House's own garden.|
People living with severe mental illness face significant obstacles to wellness and recovery. Florida consistently ranks among the lowest in per capita mental health funding (National Alliance for Mental Illness, 2016), so individuals living with untreated mental illnesses often become perpetual patients, repeat offenders, and chronically unemployed. The life expectancy for this population is 10-25 years less than the general population, making it all the more important that something be done to try to improve these odds.
Vincent House, under the blanket of a $130,000 grant from The Humana Foundation, will be partnering with Baycare nurses and USF faculty to start a Wellness Empowerment Project. This project will fund local sustainable food options that may include a hydroponics garden, an aquaponics tilapia farm, and conventional gardening. Members will be able to plant, cultivate and harvest as part of their daily activities. The food grown as part of our sustainable food effort will also be used for hands-on nutrition classes and cooking lessons in our state-of-the-art commercial kitchen. With the help of a nutritionist, we will offer workshops, create nutritious breakfasts and lunches, offer medically-tailored to-go meals for people with special diets to eat in the evenings and on weekends, and completely overhaul our snack shop to provide health-conscious options. We are also employing practitioners in yoga and meditation to help relieve stress, reduce anxiety and help with other symptoms experienced by our members. In collaboration with BayCare Health Systems, we will offer confidential wellness consultations helping with smoking cessation; monitoring for many at-risk conditions, such as diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure; and checking Body Mass Index levels. This will help members who need support with their illnesses or want to curb their bad habits.
Vincent House thanks both The Humana Foundation and BayCare for their support in making all of this happen. Without them, a lot of these improvements would become unreachable.