As witnessed in this issue, Jacksonville is an incredible place full of innovative ideas and inspired people. Each passing season sees this city becoming a destination, growing in diversity, glistening in newness. Like any metropolis though, we have our share of growing pains and blemishes. Following are a list of issues that we’d love to see eradicated from the First Coast.

Opioids

In recent years the misuse of opioids for their euphoric effects has become rampant. This has caused a strain on community services all over the country and Northeast Florida is no exception. Hospitals see this strain in the number of babies born with an opioid dependency. In 2015, there were 167 babies born dependent, and that number has quickly risen.

The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department receives, on average, one call every two hours in relation to an opioid overdose. This results in monthly costs of $15,000 to the department, and these numbers are tripled from those of 2014.

The child welfare system in Northeast Florida is seeing the effects too, as the number of children in state care is steadily rising. More than 800 children were removed from families in Duval and Nassau counties last year, 78 percent of which were related to drug or substance abuse. If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction, please get help.

LGBT School Risks

Middle school and high school are full of awkward transitions, stress and discovery. They can be difficult, and research shows it may be even more treacherous a landscape for LGBT youth. The Youth Risk Behavior Survey is administered by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and is used to analyze behaviors of students in middle and high schools. It is completed in odd years, and while 2017 is not yet available, the 2015 data showed some startling trends in Duval County. In the study, 12.9 percent of high school students identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual.

  • 14.5 percent were the victims of teasing or name calling because someone thought they were lesbian, gay or bisexual
  • 71.9 percent of LGB students report experiencing violence compared to just 35.3 percent of heterosexual students
  • 53 percent of LGB students reported being clinically depressed
  • 37.5 percent say they planned to attempt suicide and 32.5 percent reported attempting suicide

The study does not currently collect data on transgender students, however, data from JASMYN shows these statistics may be much higher for these youth, specifically when they are coming from unsupportive communities. Those lacking support have a 47 percent chance of committing suicide compared to just 4 percent of those coming from supportive communities.

While the city has progressed with the passing of an inclusive human rights ordinance, there is still a need for improvement when it comes to the public’s perception and acceptance of LGBT citizens. It starts with the parents and caretakers and what they teach their children about compassion and tolerance.

Social Discord/Cyber Bullying

Let’s face it, the way we treat our human counterparts has reached an improbable low. While there are beautiful moments such as the human chain to save drowning victims in Panama City, they are rare and fleeting. Our country is polarized to a level we may never see again. Northeast Florida is no exception to this trend.

Perhaps the rapid growth of hate and promotion of insolence can be blamed on social media. Since the invention of Facebook and Twitter, it seems everyone is a cyber Rambo — sitting there behind a desktop, a keyboard warrior ready to obliterate the comment section of their local news station.

To some extent we’re all guilty of it. We just say whatever we want because our targets are faceless to us. The growth of social media and the lack of physical human interaction has actually dehumanized us. We don’t see people as people anymore. We have become apathetic to the human condition.

The issue of social discord isn’t limited to online activity. Jacksonville has seen crime rates continue to rise. Look at the news for five minutes, and you’ll likely hear several stories about gun violence, domestic violence, child abuse or any other heinous act. FDLE reports Duval County had 89 murders in 2015, 106 in 2016 and at the time this article was written, we were already at 71 for 2017.

Social polarization shows up in other local arenas too. Once-peaceful protests have turned into clashes, as seen with the Hemming Park Five earlier this year, when a protest against Syrian bombings turned violent at the arrival of a group of counter-protesters. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s annual census of hate groups, the number of them in the country and Jacksonville have risen for a second year in a row.

There is marvelous diversity in this city, but we can often lack acceptance. There are a lot of reasons to celebrate the 904, but there is always room for a little improvement.