Silent Crisis: Understanding the Causes of Rising Suicide Rates

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Behavioral Health Medical Director, Dr. Howard Pratt

In 2022, suicide deaths rose approximately 2.6 percent from the prior year, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The shocking rise brings the CDC’S estimated number of deaths to nearly 50,000, revealing an alarming trend in suicide rates. Dr. Howard Pratt, Behavioral Health Medical Director at Community Health of South Florida, Inc. (CHI) highlights the concerning nature of this situation.

“Suicide rates have been increasing in the United States for several decades,” he said. “Anxiety and depression are at an all-time high. More than 49,000 people we know have died by suicide, but that number is not fixed, it is something that is going to increase as we investigate this a bit more.”

CDC research suggests that the rise in suicide rates is due to factors such as limited access to healthcare and job and financial problems or loss. This has unfortunately created a sense of hopelessness in some groups who were already experiencing daily stresses. Social distancing during the pandemic also had a lasting impact on people’s mental health, according to Dr. Pratt.

“During the pandemic, people were left with more time to themselves,” he said. “When you take away the distractions of everyday life, you get faced with having to deal with the way you have been feeling for a long time.”

One group that saw the largest increase in suicide deaths in 2022 was people ages 65 and older.

“For the elderly and for all people, having a sense of purpose is really important,” Dr. Pratt said. “Especially for this age group, part of their identity has been that they are strong, and they are the support of their family. They were just at a state where they never talked about their mental health and now for the first time, they are seeking help and that was the group that had the largest increase in suicide. It was a 35% increase in people over the age of 65.”

Mental health plays a vital role in our overall well-being. With suicide being one of the leading causes of death in the United States according to CDC data, Dr. Pratt urges those who are struggling with their mental health to speak to a professional as soon as they can. CHI offers behavioral health services and aims to connect the community to essential care.

“At CHI you have people like me, I am an adult and child psychiatrist, we have therapists here, we have a lot of resources,” he said. “Connecting to resources is the most important thing. It might not start with behavioral health; it may be with your family physician. With kids, it may be at school. At CHI, patient care comes first and that includes mental health.”

CHI’s Dr. Saint Anthony Amofah Awarded Prestigious Award

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A big congratulations to our Dr. Saint Anthony Amofah who recently won the prestigious 2023 Health Professions Education and Training Award from the National Association of Community Health Centers! Over the course of his impressive nearly 30-year career, Dr. Amofah has touched countless lives and continues to do so with compassion.

As the Chief Clinical Officer at Community Health of South Florida, Inc. (CHI) and Chief Academic Officer for the Brodes H. Hartley, Jr. Teaching Health Center, he deeply cares for his patients and dedicates his efforts to fostering the next generation of healthcare professionals. This welldeserved award recognizes his dedication to contributing valuable guidance and clinical education to residents and fellow CHI health professionals. Dr. Amofah is both an innovator and committed provider of service to the South Florida community and CHI is grateful to have him!

Boosting Health In Our Community

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A place that has made sure everyone has high-quality healthcare for more than 50 years.

September 15 to October 15 is Hispanic Heritage Month, a special time to celebrate the culture, history, and strength of Hispanic people. But, it is also important to talk about Hispanic health.

“Good health means understanding what everyone needs. At Community Health of South Florida, Inc. (CHI), we’re working hard to better understand and help with the health problems that are common in our community,” says Dr. Edwin Bosa-Osorio, MD at CHI.

One out of every five Hispanics does not have health insurance, which is much higher than non-Hispanic whites. Without insurance, doctor visits can cost a lot, so some people skip important health check-ups. But at CHI, there is healthcare for everyone. They have a team of enrollment specialists to help people enroll in different insurance plans. Even if someone doesn’t have insurance, CHI still offers highquality healthcare on a sliding fee scale based on the person’s income.

“Living a long life is great, but we want it to be a healthy one,” said Dr. Bosa-Osorio. “We’re here to help everyone get the medical care they need, regardless of their income.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hispanics have higher rates of cancer, heart disease and diabetes. In 2020, a big cause of death was COVID-19. Plus, Hispanic people also struggle more often with being overweight and pregnancy and birth issues.

“Some of these things develop in part by genetic factors,” said Dr. Bosa-Osorio. But some of it is due to lifestyle, diet and exercise. As a clinician, I look at all the factors and find the best treatment plan for that individual.”

But CHI can help keep our community healthy. With many health services, from pediatrics to family medicine, dental care, OB/GYN, urgent care, behavioral health and much more—CHI can help patients and their whole families live healthy lives.

“We do more than just fix problems. We want everyone to be fully healthy. At CHI, we want people in the Hispanic community to know they’re important, heard, and taken care of,” Dr. Bosa-Osorio explains.

This month, while celebrating the rich culture and history of Hispanic people, the CHI team reminds everyone that health matters and that they are always ready to help and support everyone in the community.

Do you want to focus on being healthy? Need to know more or make an appointment? Visit chisouthfl.org or call (786) 272-2100. Let’s make our whole community healthier together.

A Message From The President & CEO

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The future strength of your healthcare hangs in the balance as Congress debates funding for Community Health Centers, the National Health Service Corps, and Teaching Health Centers across the nation. Unless Congress takes action, more than 1,400 health centers throughout the U.S., including Community Health of South Florida, Inc. (CHI), will not have access to critical funding to provide care to more than 31 million patients. Nearly 9 million of those are children and all of those patients deserve access to high-quality, compassionate healthcare, regardless of income or insurance status.

CHI’s Brodes H. Hartley, Jr. Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) program will celebrate its 10-year anniversary of training doctors in family medicine and psychiatry and it depends on financial support to continue developing the next generation of doctors. A majority of the graduates across the nation stay in community health and some of the graduates from CHI’s program have remained in Miami-Dade County. With a doctor shortage projected, legislators cannot afford to skip workforce funding like this.

CHI is not mine—it’s all of ours. It’s a resource that keeps my family healthy and safe and does the same for communities throughout Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. It is all of our responsibilities to let congressional leaders know that they must fund community health and teaching health centers. The welfare of our communities depends on it. Please reach out to your Congressional leader and tell them to fund these key programs.

On another note, many of us have pushed COVID-19 into the back of our minds, eager to forget it. But now is not the time to forget. As you will read in this edition of the newsletter, COVID-19 rates are again increasing and we need to be vigilant. Make sure you and your loved ones are vaccinated, which you can do at any CHI health center.

It’s also flu season, so if you don’t have your flu vaccine, we suggest you get it here at CHI. We want you to be healthy as we head into the holiday season and this is one of many ways that can help you enjoy your time with your families.

Let’s advocate for a healthy family, a healthy home and a healthy nation together.

 

Yours Truly, 

 

 

 

Blake Hall 

Decoding the Newcovid-19 Variants: What You Need to Know

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We are not yet out of the woods with COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This summer season, BA.2.86 and EG.5 emerged as new strains of the virus that causes COVID-19. All viruses evolve over time and these strains are called “variants.” These changes can affect how contagious a virus is and how severely it affects people. The latest variants have already initiated a surge in infections across the country. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), EG.5 became the dominant variant in August 2023, and they have labeled it as a “variant of interest.” BA.2.86, although less widespread, carries many variations.

“EG. 5 currently represent 25% of all COVID-19 cases,” said Community Health of South Florida, Inc. (CHI) Infection Control Specialist, Lara Nazon. “The same precautions should be taken as with earlier variants.”

The rise in cases is concerning. However, there have been no reports of an increase in disease severity, WHO states.

“Symptoms for these strains are less severe. However, it is more contagious and spreads faster,” said Patricia Philippe, Director of Education Infection, Prevention and Control at CHI. “That is why we are seeing an increase in cases.”

Philippe also says that low testing numbers are contributing to the spread of the disease.

“People are testing less,” she said. “Some are thinking that if they do not test, they are not infected.

The WHO also warns that even though the risk for severe cases and hospitalizations with the EG.5 variant is low; people should still take precautions. Philippe stresses that certain groups are more vulnerable to the disease and that adopting the necessary measures to protect you and your family will make a meaningful impact.

“Someone who is immunocompromised or has a weaker immune system can contract the disease from an asymptomatic person,” Philippe said.

“If you have COVID-19, it is important to protect your families, especially the elderly. You must test and isolate yourself as soon as you experience symptoms. Hygiene, social distancing and washing your hands will help to slow transmission.”

The CDC and other experts are closely monitoring both variants. More data is needed to see how the viruses will trend.

“We are in close contact with the CDC and are following COVID-19 guidelines,” said Philippe. “There is currently a peak at this time but in terms of severity and how it will trend, we do not yet know.”

Nazon advises people to not let their guard down. The most important preventative measure is to be up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and boosters and stay informed on how the virus is transmitted.

“COVID-19 is still here, and it is still spreading the same as before,” Nazon said. “If you are in a crowded or closed space, wear your mask. If you are coughing and have symptoms, wear a mask, and always maintain good hygiene.”

Multiple Sclerosis: Early Treatment May Slow Disease Progression

  • Researchers investigated how early treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS) affects health outcomes.
  • They found that earlier treatment is linked to a lower risk of disability later on.
  • Seeking diagnosis and early treatment for MS at the onset of symptoms could improve patient quality of life.

Our Compassionate Team Serving You

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Semein “Junior” Ayala has been an Outreach Worker at Community Health of South Florida, Inc. (CHI) since April 2022. He is based out of the Everglades Health Center and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Clinica Campesina Health Center. He also works on CHI’s Mobile Medical Van. Ayala serves as a crucial link between the community and CHI’s health centers. He dedicates himself to educating the community about the services provided by CHI, helping individuals navigate Medicaid and insurance coverage, and frequently organizing events. Ayala deeply treasures the relationships he builds with people, considering it his greatest achievements to secure their access to high-quality healthcare. On the weekends, he enjoys resting at home, watching tv and preparing delicious meals for his family  

Semein Ayala stands in front of CHI’s Mobile Medical Van

Rubis Vergara Ramirez is an APRN at CHI’s South Dade Health CenterShe started working at CHI in 2011 as a Site Manager at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Clinica Campesina Health Center. She enjoys working with minority groups and the underserved population. Now as an APRN, she works directly with patients and prides herself on providing the very best care. Her favorite part of the job is hearing success stories from her patients who are in better health after their visits. When Vergara Ramirez isn’t saving lives at CHI, she loves to cook, go to the beach and travel.  

Rubis Vergara Ramirez, employed at CHI for more than a decade, at South Dade Health Center

CHI Hosts Annual Men’s Health Fair

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(from left to right) Oscar Gonzalez, CHI’s Vice President of Logistics and Facilities, Kenneth Gould and son, Juan Lopez, Benjo Reyes and son, and CHI’s Director of Information Technology, Jose Carmona, pose for a photo at CHI’s Men’s Health Fair.

The Doris Ison Health Center was abuzz with contagious enthusiasm as men belted out lyrics to select songs in an energetic karaoke session. The excitement was all for CHI’s Men’s Health Fair. It was a joyous atmosphere of men coming together to advocate for and celebrate a shared commitment to a healthy lifestyle.  

The annual event, hosted by Community Health of South Florida, Inc. (CHI), brought together a diverse group of men eager to engage in fun activities with family and friends.  

Attendees enjoyed relaxing massages, engaging games of dominoes and basketball and the hit of the evening, the NBA draft on the big screen. They also had the opportunity to discover essential health resources such as prostate health education and testing, mental health support, colon health screenings, plus blood pressure and glucose screenings.  

CHI’s Executive Vice President and Chief Behavorial Health Officer, Jean D. Pierre, believes that offering health events like this to the community creates an opportunity for men to be conscious of their health.  

“By monitoring your physical and mental health, you gain valuable insights into your body’s needs.” He said. “Regular and preventative check-ups, screenings and self-awareness empower you to catch potential issues early, prevent future complications and allows you to take charge of your overall well-being.”  

Along with important health screenings and education, a handful of the guests also won raffles. Among the prizes were two signed basketballs by NBA legend, Glen Rice, Miami Heat tickets, a 40-inch TV and gas cards. 

The event showcased CHI’s continued dedication to provide accessible healthcare services to the South Florida Community.  

A Message From The President & CEO

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It feels like summer is just flying by us. I hope you are enjoying some time with your families and remembering to take precautions in the extreme heat.  

We have had so much to celebrate this summer. We graduated our seventh class of doctors from the Brodes H. Hartley, Jr. Teaching Health Center program. Soon after, we welcomed in ten new residents to begin their training with a white coat ceremony.  

Many of you are now preparing to send your kids back to class and CHI is here to help. Schedule your school or sports physical now with our compassionate pediatric team and schedule an appointment with our amazing vision and dental teams to cover all the bases for the kids.  

We are excited to celebrate National Health Center Week festivities starting August 5th. This is a time where we highlight the value of community health centers all over the country, including Community Health of South Florida, Inc. (CHI). Did you know that community health centers care for 30 million people (about the population of Texas) across the country? There are 1400 community health centers in the United States and CHI is one of the largest. We are proud to be caring for our community and ensuring that everyone has access to high-quality healthcare regardless of income or background. So, join us in learning more about CHI, the people we serve, community health centers and celebrating a week’s worth of events. You can see the schedule here:

chisouthfl.org/nationalhealthcenterweek 

We are also celebrating the accomplishments of a great team here at CHI. That includes our own Chief Clinical Officer, Dr. Saint Anthony Amofah. He was recently awarded the Jessie Trice Hero Award from Health Choice Network. This distinguished award acknowledges his strong and strategic leadership and devotion to healthcare for all.  

 

Yours Truly, 

 

 

 

Blake Hall 

The Brodes H. Hartley, Jr. Teaching Health Center Celebrates 2023 Graduation and White Coat Ceremony

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All smiles: Teaching Health Center leadership proudly stand with the 2023 graduating class

Family medicine graduate, Dr. Katina Richardson gave her commencement speech at the seventh annual Brodes H. Hartley, Jr. Teaching Health Center graduation ceremony as her fellow graduates shared proud smiles, reflecting on their transformative residency.  

“Our paths were not easy, and the challenges were immense, but it was in these moments that we discovered our true strengths, resilience, and commitment to our professions,” she said. “CHI has given us the tools to go out and make a profound impact in the lives of our patients and community.” 

 After three long years, their special day had finally arrived. The intimate ceremony held on June 10th at Pinecrest Gardens celebrated four family medicine residents and three psychiatry resident graduates. The incredible accomplishment stood as a testament of their determination, perseverance and appetite for knowledge and growth as medical professionals.  

 A reflection of Community Health of South Florida’s Inc. (CHI) commitment to community health care, this group of doctors showed the organization’s dedication to innovation and growth.  

“The strength of our program is a result of these talented residents,” said President and CEO, Blake Hall. “We are so proud of you, and we love you.”  

CHI’s Chief Clinical Officer and Chief Academic Officer of the Teaching Health Center, Dr. St. Anthony Amofah, smiled from ear to ear as he addressed the graduates in an emotional speech.  

 “Congratulations to the graduates, you did it!” he said. “We thank you so much for allowing us to be a part of your training. Graduation is not the end but rather, the beginning of a beautiful journey for you.”  

Keynote speaker, Chief Medical Officer of the National Association of Community Health Centers, Ron Yee and Florida State Representative, Alina Garcia, also provided touching sentiments to the graduating residents during the ceremony.  

The residents faced unique challenges during their residency, most notably a global pandemic that changed resident training and their patient care approach. However, through it all, they were able to adapt seamlessly and become better professionals. 

As one class celebrated their accomplishments, CHI then welcomed the newest resident graduates on June 26, 2023. The White Coat Ceremony was the Teaching Health Center’s ninth incoming class since its start in 2014.  

With five family medicine and five psychiatry residents, the ceremony signified an incredible milestone in their career. The room buzzed with anticipation as residents and their proud family and friends eagerly awaited the special moment. Dr. Amofah welcomed them and noted the significance of the moment.  

“We are very grateful that we get to celebrate this important milestone with you,” he said. “Faculty and program leadership reviewed about 2,500 applications to select the 10 of you. So, it is a big deal that you are here today, for you and for us.”  

The newest resident class of the Teaching Health Center pose for their first group photo at the Doris Ison Health Center.

Psychiatry resident Dr. Thaimy Del Prado expressed her elation to begin her journey as a practicing clinician in her hometown of Miami.  

“I am excited about meeting new people,” she said. “I’m looking forward to expanding my medical knowledge and giving back to my community.”  

As each resident donned their white coats, Dr. Amofah left them with an important message.   

“As you put on this white coat today, it is important that you don’t see it as a symbol of power and authority,” he said.  “When you put it on, we want you to remember it is a symbol of service to humanity. This white coat must represent big hearts, compassion, empathy, and professionalism.”