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Mental Health Advocates Fear Repercussions of Budget Cuts from Drug Treatment

July 11th, 2017 by Jake Stofan
Governor Rick Scott spent the day touting new legislation increasing penalties for opioid dealers, but advocates say the lawmakers failed to address a key issue… treatment for addicts.
Ten Floridians die each day from opioids.
Florida ranks 49th for per capita spending on mental health.
This year lawmakers cut mental health and addiction services by over 11 million.
“Those communities are now going to have to figure out how do they reconfigure to still try and accomplish that task, but obviously with 40% less money they wont be able to live up to that goal and expectation set,” said Mark Fontaine, Executive Director of Florida Health Behavioral Association.
Advocates say community treatment centers are already experiencing high volumes of patients.
In many cases there aren’t enough beds or resources to help everyone who comes through their doors.
Lawmakers did beef up spending for law enforcement to fight the crisis. Penalties for dealers were increased.
Mental health advocates say without increased addiction services, they’re fighting a losing battle.
Jane Johnson with Florida Council for Community and Mental Health says the state can’t arrest its way out of the problem.
Jane Johnson
Florida Council for Community Mental Health
“If we had an adequate infrastructure in our communities, through our community mental health centers so that those folks who would get picked up can go into a recovery oriented environment,” said Johnson. “They could get the support that they need so they could come out on the other side and contribute to society.”
Many drug addicts deal with addiction as well as mental health issues.
That’s why advocates say until the state prioritizes services to help with underlying issues, nothing will change.
“We have to change our view of that and look at it as a disorder like diabetes or cancer,” said Melanie Brown-Woofter with Florida Council for Community Mental Health.
In addition to the $11 million dollar cut this year, $21 million in federal funds end after 2 years, putting the state in an even more precarious situation.
The federal funding does help with medication assisted treatment, but doesn’t go towards detox or residential treatment facilities.

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