Monday, December 11, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Keep funds for mental health care in Pinellas

Robbing Peter to pay Paul: That is what it has come to in Florida when it comes to mental health resources. In a state that grossly underfunds substance abuse and mental health treatment for poor Floridians, now one of the state's privatized mental health coordinators is contemplating taking up to $3.2 million in state money from Pinellas County and redirecting it to a pair of rural counties. Pinellas County's legislative delegation should make sure that doesn't happen. And then it needs to convince legislative leaders that the state needs to invest more to address mental health issues across the state.

Pinellas-Pasco Public Defender Bob Dillinger is sounding the alarm that the Central Florida Behavioral Health Network — the coordinating agency that oversees distribution of the state's mental health treatment money in Hills- borough, Pinellas, Pasco and 11 other west-central Florida counties — has been contemplating embarking on an equity funding scheme in coming years. It is proposing shifting over the next three to four years about $3.2 million from Pinellas County treatment providers — agencies such as Boley Centers, Operation PAR and Vincent House — to agencies in Hendry and Glades counties. Perhaps it's just coincidence that Hendry County's state House representative is Republican Matt Hudson, chairman of the House health care appropriations subcommittee.

But state agencies — not private vendors — should be making these funding allocations. The Department of Children and Families has long acknowledged there are funding inequities in various regions in the state when it comes to mental health dollars. In flush years, the department has used new money to close the gaps. But in the 2014-15 state budget just signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott, there is no new money for mental health even as lawmakers found more money for schools, state police and tax breaks.

That ensures that Florida will remain at the bottom among the states in spending on mental health care. At just about $40 per capita, Florida is behind only Texas and Idaho and spends less than half of what many other states do, including Mississippi ($115 per capita). The result is "we're fighting over crumbs when what we need is a full loaf of bread," said Dillinger.

The fact is that when poor, mentally ill Floridians aren't able to access treatment, it's not just their quality of life that suffers but also their families. Taxpayers pay more for expensive emergency services when smarter spending to address issues up front would save money. The debate should not be whether Hendry and Glades counties need the money more than Pinellas. It should be about how the state can finally invest enough in mental health care so that every county has what it needs to stabilize the indigent mentally ill.

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Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over stateís rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week wonít make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, itís obvious that Jeff Vinikís plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trumpís risky move

President Donald Trumpís decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israelís capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough Countyís Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Voters in Temple Terrace, Plant City and Thonotosassa have an easy choice in the Dec. 19 special election to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons. Republican Lawrence McClure is the only credible candidate.McClure, 30, ow...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

It has been 1,979 days since all heck broke loose in the flood insurance industry. Apparently, that just wasnít enough time for Washington to react. So with the National Flood Insurance Program set to expire on Friday, itís looking increasingly likel...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17

Editorial: St. Petersburg should raise rates for reclaimed water

Raising rates on reclaimed water in St. Petersburg is an equitable way to spread the pain of paying for millions in fixes to the cityís dilapidated sewer system. The city has no choice but to start charging utility customers more as the sewer bills c...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17