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Veto message for the Governor: Save the community-based mental health sys

By Staff | Jan 22, 2009

Last week, the Florida Legislature cut $6.4 million in adult community mental health funds and $1.4 million in children’s mental health funds. Florida ranks 48th in the nation in per capita spending for mental health care. Further eroding an already fragile system will only cost the state more.

Research shows that when people cannot get treatment for their mental illnesses in the community, they seek treatment in emergency departments or as hospital inpatients. They are more likely to become homeless and become involved with the criminal justice or child welfare systems, all at a much greater cost than the budget savings that will be achieved by this recent legislative action.

Florida will not solve its budget problems by cutting those programs that divert people from expensive, deep-end services like jails, prisons, and foster care. The Governor identified any number of sources of funding to get us through this tough period and preserve essential health and social services. But the Legislature ignored his advice. Now they propose cutting the very services that prevent future prison and jail construction costs, spending for parole officers,and increased law enforcement, court and other criminal justice expenses.

Florida will not solve its budget problems by cutting these programs – it will simply compound them. We must urge the Governor to veto these cuts and save Florida’s community-based mental health system.

(Bob Sharpe is the CEO and president of the Florida Council for Community Mental Health, based in Tallahassee. He may be contacted at 850-224-6048 or BobSharpe@fccmh.org.)