Florida Tale: Northeast Florida State Hospital

by Ellen

NEFSH is in a beautiful location, and I used to stay at their hospitality house on campus when I volunteered. I have an ill son who improved greatly there - and then I continued to volunteer a few years after he was discharged.

NEFSH won the governor's sterling award back then - and they also partnered with the Cummer Art Museum in Jax. The Highwaymen were talking about visiting the hospital then; don't know if they did.

Since the wars - everything has been cut back - so it isn't the place it was. They had a hospitality house where families could stay for $10, a 9-hole golf course, a boutique, a bank, a canteen, a place to make crafts, and the Yorkshire House where patients could learn to cook gourmet meals, and visitors or other patients could eat there for a price.

They also had the Eagles Nest where folks could shoot pool and watch movies, and an A-frame chapel and word working shop, and a gym. They even had a store downtown - A New Leaf - and they had fireworks every Independence Day where folks from all around would come to the hospital.

At the clothing store folks could donate clothing - they had a seamstress and music, and every new patient could get a set of clothes and shoes, as some came to the hospital with only the clothes on their backs.

They also had Night of Nativity at Christmas and a Christmas party, and they had a golf tournament at Deerwood Country Club, and Michael Whelan from the Golf channel and Sex and the City came, and they earned $40K so each ward could pick something they liked - bikes, plants, furnishings, aquariums, etc. And they had a club for Spanish-speaking folks called Hispanos Amigos.

In the old days, I heard there were 1200 beds, and it was scary up there, but then the group, Friends of NEFSH started, and the hospital improved greatly until about ten years ago. They had 650 beds and 51 for Brevard County, but now beds are being cut again, adding to the homeless and jail populations. But it's not a scary place like in the movies.

Didn't mean to go on and on. What I remember are beautiful Christmas decorations and hundreds of Azaleas in the Spring. You should be able to see a picture of the hospital on Google.

Thanks for showing us all the wonderful places in Florida. A state hospital isn't so wonderful - and parents threatened to send kids to Chattahoochee when I grew up here, but the little town of Macclenny is nice.

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