Friday, July 20, 2018
Health

Senate plan includes big cuts to mental health programs

TALLAHASSEE — 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 substance 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.

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 would rather make these cuts than reduce spending on programs for the disabled, the elderly and children.

"When it comes to funding, an 85-year-old woman in a nursing home matters more to me than a 45-year-old guy with a substance abuse problem," he said. "It's all about priorities."

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.

Mark Fontaine, executive director of the Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association, said the cuts may save money in the short term but ignore the savings that prevention and intervention programs provide. "It's cheaper to treat somebody than it is to put them in a prison," he said. "It's cheaper to treat somebody than it is to take their children away in child welfare. It's cheaper to treat somebody than for them to show up at the emergency room."

Like many providers around the state, Marsha Lewis Brown has also started lobbying her local legislators to reject Negron's plan. As executive director of Northside Mental Health Center in Tampa, she serves more than 4,300 severely and persistently mentally ill patients each year. "With funding cuts like the magnitude of these, where would the folks end up?" she said.

Brown understands the challenge lawmakers face trying to balance the budget and close a nearly $2 billion shortfall. But doing it at the expense of addicts and the mentally ill doesn't seem right, she said.

"It makes it sound as if we don't understand and appreciate that mental illness is comparable to a primary illness," she said. "You can't ignore a diabetic who needs insulin. Just like you can't ignore a schizophrenic person who needs medication and needs support."

Tia Mitchell can be reached at [email protected] or (850) 224-7263.

Comments
When suicide threats come calling: ‘I try to make a connection.’

When suicide threats come calling: ‘I try to make a connection.’

TAMPA — At first glance, it’s a typical office with more than a dozen cubicles under florescent lights. The operators wear headsets and stare into computer screens, some tinkering with handheld toys, others browsing Facebook or chatting with colleagu...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Sarasota man dies from infectious bacteria after eating raw oysters

Sarasota man dies from infectious bacteria after eating raw oysters

A Sarasota man died of an infectious bacteria after eating raw oysters.The bacteria, called Vibrio vulnificus, is often associated with eating raw or under-cooked shellfish or entering into warm coastal waters with exposed wounds.The 71-year-old Sara...
Published: 07/18/18
Updated: 07/19/18
Soy, almond ‘milk’ don’t come from a cow, so they may soon be called ‘drinks’

Soy, almond ‘milk’ don’t come from a cow, so they may soon be called ‘drinks’

NEW YORK — Soy and almond drinks don’t come from cows, so regulators may soon ask them to stop calling themselves "milk." The Food and Drug Administration is signaling that it plans to start enforcing a federal standard that defines "milk" as coming ...
Published: 07/18/18
Florida nursing homes have enough staff, numbers show. But the state has shortages in other areas.

Florida nursing homes have enough staff, numbers show. But the state has shortages in other areas.

In most places across America, nursing homes are facing an acute shortage of workers to take care of the country’s growing population of aging and disabled patients. But not in Florida. A Kaiser Family Foundation report published this month found tha...
Published: 07/17/18
So far, so good. Doctors at Tampa General find success with a device that fights often-fatal aneurysms

So far, so good. Doctors at Tampa General find success with a device that fights often-fatal aneurysms

TAMPA — Dr. Murray Shames holds a flexible, lightweight tube as wide as two garden hoses pushed together in his office at Tampa General Hospital. The polyester tube, and its thinner fastening branches with metal wiring, will be attached inside someon...
Published: 07/13/18
Updated: 07/16/18
Sunday Conversation: Sherry Hoback looks to move Tampa Family Health Centers to the next level

Sunday Conversation: Sherry Hoback looks to move Tampa Family Health Centers to the next level

TAMPA — Taking over for an administrator who has run a company for almost 20 years can be daunting. • But Sherry Hoback prepared for some time to replace Charles Bottoms as CEO of the Tampa Family Health Centers, a non-profit organization that operat...
Published: 07/12/18
Updated: 07/15/18
How can City Hall improve our health? A new push in Pinellas hopes to show the way.

How can City Hall improve our health? A new push in Pinellas hopes to show the way.

The charitable organization that owns a 20 percent stake in St. Petersburg’s Bayfront Health hospital is working with local governments to improve the public’s health, part of a strategy to make a difference in new and often subtle ways. The Foundati...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/12/18
New York organ collection agency, nation’s second-largest, threatened with closure

New York organ collection agency, nation’s second-largest, threatened with closure

The government is threatening to close one of the country’s largest "organ procurement organizations" for poor performance, a rare move against a nonprofit group that collects kidneys, livers, hearts and other organs used in transplantation.In a lett...
Published: 07/11/18
Retirement communities turn their sights on a once-invisible group: LGBT seniors

Retirement communities turn their sights on a once-invisible group: LGBT seniors

In 2016, as Kenneth MacLean was about to turn 90 and was looking to move to a retirement community, he had a question for Asbury Methodist Village in Gaithersburg, Maryland."I asked, ‘Would there be many gays here? Would gays be welcomed?’ " MacLean,...
Published: 07/09/18
The other victims: First responders to horrific events often suffer in solitude

The other victims: First responders to horrific events often suffer in solitude

The day a gunman fired into a crowd of 22,000 people at the country music festival in Las Vegas, hospital nursing supervisor Antoinette Mullan was focused on one thing: saving lives.She recalls dead bodies on gurneys across the triage floor, a trauma...
Published: 07/09/18