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Campaign for Mental Health Money Launched

Jan 7, 2016
Originally published on January 7, 2016 8:46 am

A campaign launching this week highlights Florida’s lack of mental health funding.

The #ElectHealthFL campaign is calling on Floridians to contact elected officials and ask for more funding. Depending on who you ask, Florida either ranks 49th or 50th in per-person mental health funding.

Either way, at $37 dollars per person, Florida spends one-third of what Mississippi spends and one-tenth of what Maine puts in. And last year, an investigation by the Tampa Bay Times and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune found that budget cuts and neglect at state mental hospitals led to 15 deaths.

Candice Crawford with the Mental Health Association said $1.1 million has been cut from two Central Florida behavioral health hospitals.

“These cuts result in the closing down of psychiatric beds in these hospitals,” Crawford said. “And Florida has experienced so many cuts and a huge influx in population. It’s incalculable how much we’re behind.”

The campaign is focusing on Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli of Brevard County. Crisafulli’s spokesman Michael Williams said his office hasn’t been approached about the proposal.

“It is curious that this group would only target one legislator from one chamber,” Williams wrote in an email. “Such actions tend toward a political motivation, rather than a genuine desire to find real solutions.”

From 2010 to 2014, lawmakers cut $140 million for mental health and substance abuse treatment, according to the Florida Community Health Action Information Network.

“We’re also seeing that among the half million adults with serious mental illness in Florida, only about 36 percent receive treatment,” said Sita Diehl, director of state policy with the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “That’s just two thirds of the national average. And for a major state like Florida, that’s a national disgrace.”

-- Reporter Abe Aboraya is part of WMFE in Orlando. Health News Florida receives support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.