Friday, May 25, 2018
News Roundup

Mental health alliance proposed

BROOKSVILLE — Being No. 1 isn't always a good thing, and that certainly is true when your county ranks first in the state in the percentage of babies born addicted to drugs.

Hernando County also has the third-highest suicide rate in the state and far outstrips the state average for the percentage of children involuntarily committed under Florida's Baker Act.

On Tuesday, the Hernando County Commission is slated to talk about one way the county might be able to begin to turn some of those negative statistics around. Commissioners will consider forming a mental health alliance that could give local mental health service providers a means to snag grant money to begin to address specific issues.

The hope is that local schools, law enforcement and government entities would also participate in the alliance "to partner together in a community approach,'' according to material provided for the commission's Tuesday discussion.

In preparation for that discussion, Commissioner Diane Rowden, who asked the commission to consider forming the alliance in the wake of the recent shooting spree at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, spoke with mental health professionals about some of the early objectives an alliance could target.

David Welch, president of the Hernando County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness and a residential counselor at WestBridge Community Services, west of Brooksville, stepped forward with a list similar to the one he presented when he spoke to commissioners on the topic last month.

Special crisis intervention training for Sheriff's Office personnel is one of the top proposals. The 40 hours of training, so deputies would be able to deal with people in a mental health crisis, would cost approximately $60,000.

Welch told commissioners that Hernando lags behind on the training of deputies and that, if everyone were trained, some incidents that have taken place in the county might have had a better outcome.

Another need identified is a clubhouse where those with severe mental illnesses could gather for employment training, programs, activities, community support, education and help in searching for housing. The start-up cost could be about $750,000, with a lower annual cost after that, according to the material provided to the commission.

Welch pointed out that there are similar facilities in surrounding communities.

A Florida assertive community treatment team, or FACT, is also on the wish list. The team would include eight to 10 professionals, including a psychiatrist, who would work with about 80 people who have a severe mental illness but cannot afford a private program.

The team would provide around-the-clock assistance to help with treatment, rehabilitation and support services.

Such a team would likely cost $16,000 to $21,000 per client per year.

With the large number of children in Hernando being held under the Baker Act, another objective for the alliance could be to entice a child psychiatrist into the county by offering a home, salary, benefits and contract.

Currently, parents in Hernando have to take their children elsewhere for such services. Simply keeping the children closer to home would save the county up to $150,000 a year, Welch said last month.

An average of 30 Hernando County children a month are taken into custody under the Baker Act. One recently was just 5 years old. Having the local resources needed to deal with young people with mental health issues would go a long way in reducing the numbers, Welch said.

"I think there is a better way of helping our children" than putting them in handcuffs and sending them to a mental health facility, he said.

Rowden and Welch have been speaking to state and federal officials about the local issues, and Rowden said she also expects a representative from the office of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson to attend Tuesday's meeting.

Rowden said she is hopeful the alliance will be a success. In the wake of the Sandy Hook deaths, she said, people want to take steps to avert another tragedy.

"I don't want to talk about guns,'' Rowden said. "We need to talk about an issue that we can do something about.''

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.

Comments
Did the NFL really need a national anthem policy?

Did the NFL really need a national anthem policy?

Before we even get going, let me be clear about something.This is not a column making an argument about whether or not NFL players should be able to kneel in protest during the national anthem.That topic has been debated repeatedly, loudly and passio...
Updated: 25 minutes ago
Rays trade Alex Colome and Denard Span to Mariners for prospects

Rays trade Alex Colome and Denard Span to Mariners for prospects

The Rays made a major trade Friday afternoon, sending All-Star closer Alex Colome and OF Denard Span to the Mariners.The return is two minor-leaguers, RHP Andrew Moore and RHP Tommy Romero. The Rays also sent cash to the Mariners.Span, a Tampa produc...
Updated: 1 hour ago
In federal trial, jury finds Hernando deputiesí actions justified

In federal trial, jury finds Hernando deputiesí actions justified

TAMPA ó Michael Bratt told a story.He said that Hernando County sheriffís deputies attacked him in his home early one morning eight years ago, beat him severely on his front lawn, and continued the assault as they took him to a hospital.But another s...
Updated: 1 hour ago
For starters: Sergio Romo on mound tonight as Rays open series against Orioles

For starters: Sergio Romo on mound tonight as Rays open series against Orioles

By JOEY JOHNSTONTimes CorrespondentST. PETERSBURG — For openers, the Rays will use RHP Sergio Romo, the 35-year-old career reliever, as tonight's starter against the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field.Romo is making his third career "sta...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Five members of 69ers motorcycle gang indicted on federal charges

Five members of 69ers motorcycle gang indicted on federal charges

Last year three members of the 69ers Motorcycle Club gang were implicated in the execution of a rival gang leader in the middle of rush hour traffic in Pasco County.Now those three and two other 69ers members have been indicted on federal charges tha...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Editorial: Welcome Bayshore changes still canít stop bad judgment

Editorial: Welcome Bayshore changes still canít stop bad judgment

Itís human nature in following any tragedy to imagine: How could this have been prevented? On that score, the city of Tampa responded appropriately to the deaths this week of a mother and her toddler whom police say were hit by a teenage driver racin...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Sparks fly among Hillsborough School Board members as private messages are leaked

Sparks fly among Hillsborough School Board members as private messages are leaked

TAMPA ó Somebody got into Hillsborough County School Board member Melissa Snivelyís Facebook account, copied her messages and gave them to a newspaper publisher who is a friend of her rivals on the board.The posts discussed politics and power struggl...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Raccoon bites bicyclist, now the Health Department is looking for the victim

TAMPA ó A bicyclist in the Palm River area was bitten by a raccoon Friday morning, the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County said.Now the department is concerned the animal had rabies and is searching for the bicyclist."While it is impo...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Meet your unwelcome Memorial Day guest: Subtropical Storm Alberto

Meet your unwelcome Memorial Day guest: Subtropical Storm Alberto

It has a name.Subtropical Storm Alberto is crawling into the Gulf of Mexico, an unwelcome guest arriving a week before the official start of hurricane season.The system, which became the first named storm of the year Friday, could bring five inches o...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Mom service dog has puppies in Tampa airport, while dad service dog looks on

Mom service dog has puppies in Tampa airport, while dad service dog looks on

TAMPA — Travelers killing time at Tampa International Airport’s Gasparilla Bar got an unexpected show Friday when a dog gave birth to eight puppies near Gate F81. The 2-year-old golden retriever, Eleanor Rigby, owner Diane Van Atter, and...
Updated: 3 hours ago