Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Editorials

County's support for mental health alliance is timely

Hernando County is poised to help a new group trying to bolster local mental health services. It is a valuable assist even if the cash-strapped county government says it won't be pitching in financially.

The commission's willingness to sponsor a still-organizing alliance should aid the group as it applies for federal and state grants to better provide mental health programs. Tea partiers asked for and received assurances that no local dollars would be used. Still, the county's blessing — which still requires a formal vote — is welcome considering some individual commissioners' past reluctance to accept federal dollars for imperative projects.

There should be no hesitancy now. The pitch for the alliance grew in significance after the December massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. But the county's limited services and corresponding public misconceptions about mental illness became apparent even earlier — after the October shooting death of a naked woman by off-duty law enforcement officers. At the time, some witnesses acknowledged meeting the naked woman earlier that day, listening to her speak of the Antichrist while holding a crucifix over her head and then documenting the encounter with a cell phone picture rather than calling authorities.

That was just a glimpse of the far-reaching problems here. Disturbing statistics compiled by the state Health Department for Hernando County show a suicide rate nearly 50 percent higher than the Florida average and a domestic violence rate that also tops the state number.

Likewise, a 2010 state survey, the most recent data available, revealed a growing number of Hernando residents disabled by physical, mental or emotional problems; more binge drinking; more people putting off medical visits because of costs; and fewer people satisfied with their lives or considered in good mental health. The problems, unfortunately, are not limited to adults. Hernando has the highest percentage of babies born to prescription drug addicts in Florida and the number of children taken into custody for mental evaluations under the Baker Act is 72 percent higher than the rest of the state.

The alliance of social workers and mental health advocates suggests several responses including crisis intervention training for deputies; a clubhouse where people with severe mental illness could receive job training, schooling and other training; assertive community treatment by eight to 10 professionals, including a psychiatrist, available to work with 80 individuals with severe mental illness; and better services for juveniles including recruiting a child psychiatrist to the county.

Forty hours of training for deputies on dealing with people in mental health crisis includes an estimated price tag of $60,000. It is the most affordable of the initial suggestions and should be the easiest to accomplish. Some of the more ambitious programs, like the assertive community treatment costing as much as $21,000 annually per patient, will require significant coordination and financial assistance.

The task is large, but it shouldn't be discouraged. Turning a blind eye to the growing number of people needing mental health help is not an acceptable alternative. The commission should formally endorse this alliance and offer any assistance it can. That will signal to all that the county understands a community is often judged by how well it takes care of its own.

Comments

‘Happy hour’ tax cuts may result in hangovers

Evidence is mounting that the $1.5 trillion tax-cut package enacted in December by congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump was a bad idea, not only for the long-run health of the economy but for the short-term political prospects of the ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

A St. Petersburg waste-to-energy plant now under construction has been billed for years as an environmentally friendly money saver. Now it looks more like a boondoggle, with the cost and mission changing on the fly. It’s yet another example of a city...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Writing a new law that phases out separate accreditation for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and folds it back into the major research university was the easy part. The hard work starts today when a new consolidation task force holds i...
Published: 04/23/18
Updated: 04/25/18

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Published: 04/23/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/24/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18