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House, Senate agree to fund new positions in mental hospitals


Lawmakers have agreed to fund additional staff in the state's mental hospitals, where years of cuts have contributed to dangerous environments.

Health care budget chairmen agreed Monday to fund another 37 positions in the hospitals. The commitment of additional workers comes in the wake of reporting by the Tampa Bay Times and Sarasota Herald-Tribune that revealed violence and neglect in the state's mental hospitals, which have seen budget and staffing cuts.

"I think this committee has taken a priority of ensuring we protect our most vulnerable residents, and that's what we're doing," Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, the Senate's health budget chairman said.

Garcia said he and his House counterpart, Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples, set aside money for the 37 jobs after Secretary Mike Carroll of the Department of Children and Families asked them for help.

The additional workers were not in either the House or Senate's original budget proposals, nor were they in Gov. Rick Scott's, although the Times/Herald-Tribune reporting found that investing in more clinical staff could be one of the most important steps toward solving the violence in the hospitals.