The National Alliance of Mental Illness just issued a report giving Florida a D grade for its mental healthcare system. In 2006, Florida had a C. Though the decrease has come on Gov. Charlie Crist's watch as the economy tanked, Crist said the mediocre grade is a call to action.
"We should strive to do better," Crist said. How? "Getting a higher grade than that?" How would you do that? "I'm sure there's a lot. I'd like to read the report," he said as a reporter handed him the NAMI press kit.
NAMI announced the grade at a press conference in support of SB 2018, which seeks an expansion of Medicaid services to get the feds to help pay the costs of treating upward of 35,000 mentally ill people in prisons and jails. The bill also would give DCF Secretary George Sheldon more authority to shift money around in his $3b budget to pay for up-front mental-health treatment in community-based care centers (cost $27k per person yearly) rather than "deep-end" treatment beds ($140k per person yearly).
Without the new federal help and community-based care, advocates say the state will have to build upward of five new prisons in the next decade just to handle the increase of the mentally ill in prisons. Estimated cost: $3.5 billion.
"That's insane," said Sheldon.
Sen. Mike Fasano, R New Port Richey, said the state is "at our 11th hour...We're becoming more incapable of treating the mentally ill, perhaps dangerously so."