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PINELLAS MENTAL HEALTH CLINIC GETS A REPRIEVE

Pinellas County officials have reversed a decision to pull funding from a St. Petersburg mental health clinic, saying they will fund the program through December.

The nonprofit clinic, the Personal Enrichment Through Mental Health Services, was on the verge of laying off staff and turning away patients after county officials said they were no longer legally obligated to provide matching funds to the group.

Without the $1.6 million PEMHS had come to rely on, officials said they would have had to turn away some of the thousands of people it takes in who are deemed a danger to themselves and others.

PEMHS' warnings appear to have worked, at least in the short term. Pinellas County Administrator Bob LaSala said the county would continue to fund the group for another three months, at a cost of about $500,000.

"We'll just cover the cost for that period of time while we develop a more broad-based approach to these services, which are critical to law enforcement and the whole justice system," he said.

PEMHS' long-term funding remains in question.

County officials are re-evaluating the mental health programs they fund and are planning to present the commission with proposals in December.

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