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Senate plan includes big cuts to mental health & substance abuse programs

Programs that serve mentally ill patients or addicts could see their state funding zeroed out this year under a Senate budget proposal.

The proposal would slash overall state spending on adult mental health and substances abuse treatment by about 40 percent, or $87 million.

The cuts would include eliminating state support for some programs entirely — including potentially Northside Mental Health Center in Tampa and Miami Behavioral Health Center.

It's not that alcoholics, drug addicts or the mentally ill don't need the help, said Sen. Joe Negron, the Stuart Republican in charge of the Senate's health care budget. But Negron said he'd rather make these cuts than reduce spending on programs for the disabled, the elderly and children.

The Senate proposal differs greatly from the budget passed last week in the House, which called for an additional $32 million in treatment funds. The Senate plan has been criticized by both providers, who stand to lose millions in state funding, as well as law enforcement officials who warn there will be a trickle-down effect that could drain state resources.

"We know that if we don't get it (help), they'll be in our jail and they'll be victimizing our constituents," said Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford, who serves as the Florida Sheriffs Association's legislative chair.

Read more here.