Access to public transportation challenging for Clay County residents, survey finds

Julie Morgan

In Clay County, nearly 30 percent of those surveyed said they did not have access to public transportation. Most of those residents live in Orange Park, in the 32073 – Zip code.

The 2022 Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) cites four core areas as "primary health issues," including lack of access, mental health, chronic disease, and poverty.

Clay County is not the only area in the five-county Northeast Florida demographic that cites a lack of access to public transportation as a concern. "Lack of access to public transportation was a challenge for the majority of survey respondents and came up repeatedly in both key stakeholder interviews and most focus groups." The CHNA found that 62 percent of people who responded to the survey in Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau, and St. Johns counties said lack of access to public transportation is a challenge.

Stakeholders surveyed included the health department, community agency, social service, and local government personnel. For example, one Clay County stakeholder said, "There's not a pediatrician close by, there's not dental care close by. Transportation is a real barrier, just because it's so rural."

Transportation Study

Clay County is updating its 2017 transportation study in search of mass transit recommendations. The study is expected to be done by January 2023.

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority will search for a contractor to conduct the study.

At the Finance and Audit meeting in May, Commissioner Jim Renninger made a few recommendations to include in the study, including geographic development within the county, high occupancy clusters, affordable living complexes, and institutions of higher education.

The county and JTA will split the cost of the study. Each side will pay half, and neither will pay more than $100,000.

Other key takeaways

Life expectancy in Clay County is 77.8 years, which is lower than the average age for the entire state. In Florida, the average life expectancy is 80 years old.

Cancer and heart disease are the leading causes of death in Clay County. Chronic lower respiratory disease, stroke, and unintentional injury round out the top five.

Clay County ranks 21 out of 67 counties for health outcomes and 15 for health factors. "Health outcomes measure both length and quality of life. At the same time, health factors reveal the shape of the community's future based on availability and access to different resources and opportunities." However, Clay's next-door neighbor St. Johns County ranks number one in the state in both areas.

In terms of mental health, "many" of those surveyed in Clay County said they had "no difficulty accessing mental health services."

"Factors contributing to the rate of chronic disease include the presence of food deserts, level of access to physical activity, and indoor/outdoor air quality." Those surveyed were asked which environmental concerns affect their community. Most respondents said safety for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Regarding poverty, the cost of care is a "concern for medical, dental and mental health services." Lack of affordable healthcare or insurance is at the top of the list of economic issues that impact health in the community.

Clay County has one Medically Underserved Area (MUA). The area is "situated in the middle of the county east of Camp Blanding and south of Middleburg." MUAs have "few primary care providers, high infant mortality, high poverty and/or a high elderly population."

What's next?

Each health system will review the CHNA and "develop implementation plans of initiatives to be tracked and measured for the next three years in the CHNA process cycle."

The health systems are Ascension St. Vincent's, Baptist Health, Brooks Rehabilitation, Mayo Clinic in Florida, and UF Health Jacksonville.

The health systems acknowledged the difficulty of addressing every point on the list. However, they say it is possible to focus on health equity. They plan to do this by identifying best practices that "support and improve the health and well-being" of Northeast Florida residents.

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