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Published Apr. 11, 2014

Is this Senate bill a fix, or is the fix in - April 6, John Romano column

While I decry the dishonest way in which SPB 7122 passed committee, I have unfortunately come to expect such underhanded behavior from politicians. I am absolutely aghast, however, at the proposed decrease in funding for the state's crisis stabilization units, or CSUs.

Although I choose not to practice in Florida because of its legislated restrictions on my ability to provide the best possible care to my patients, I am a highly respected, board-certified psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. The setting in which I most often work is the emergency department. I can say from firsthand knowledge that CSUs are essential not only in the care of the mentally ill in crisis, but to every person who might have to use an emergency department.

If a mentally ill person is a "threat to self or others" and there is no CSU or in-patient bed available, that person remains in the emergency department - maybe in the bed next to you or your child. Because mentally ill patients are sometimes in the emergency department for days, this leads to overcrowding and long emergency department waits since mentally ill patients are taking up beds.

Given this situation, which undoubtedly will be made worse by SPB 7122, will the next headline-making tragic event be here in Florida? After horrific events such as Newtown and Fort Hood, legislators give lip service to "fixing" the mental health system - and then proceed to pull the funding rug out from under both patients and providers. For shame.

Anne Manton, Palmetto

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Is this Senate bill a fix, or is the fix in

April 6, John Romano column

Fund lifesaving services

Having worked on the front lines of the Florida mental health system for more than nine years, it still amazes me just how ignorant and nearsighted some of our politicians continue to be in light of numerous horrific incidents that continue to plague our country.

Here in Florida, with our population nearly the third-largest in the nation, legislators still insist on reducing public funding for mental health and substance abuse intervention services. We are already ranked a dismal 49th out of 50 states. Are we waiting for Florida to become the subject of nationally spotlighted events before we finally properly fund these lifesaving services?

Now we have state senators who want to dismantle the public crisis support/intervention units for people who have been deemed most likely to harm themselves or others. Legislators suggest that those who have no insurance and are in most cases indigent will be served by the private, for-profit hospitals that either already have or plan to build locked crisis units. One interesting aspect of this is that the bed reimbursement rate is dramatically higher for people with insurance (including Medicaid, Medicare and private insurances), while the state reimbursement rate is much lower.

As the column noted, after the public crisis center in the Panhandle closed, for-profit HCA took over the services and is now asking for a $1 million increase in funding. It makes me wonder if the for-profits who are backing this bill are also planning to ask for funding increases once they've converted some of their insured funded beds to public, state-funded beds.

Joan M. Andrade, Pinellas Park

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Trauma fee response light - April 7

Callous indifference

It comes as no surprise that the majority of state legislators have ignored the recent Times articles on Florida's trauma center rip-off. If anything can highlight the lack of action and public concern prevalent in Tallahassee, it is the callous indifference of our representatives to the very real financial threat these centers pose for many of our residents.

The main perpetrator of this disaster is the for-profit Hospital Corporation of America, which maintains dozens of lobbyists in the Capitol and which spent $1.3 million last year to buy the right to make millions of dollars in trauma care from our citizens. It is no wonder that this travesty is allowed to happen as our governor is the former head of HCA and an unindicted participant in a fraud case that resulted in a major federal fine for the company.

It seems he and his followers have brought his corporate philosophy and moral standards to Florida by offering us the questionable right to "die or go broke."

Jim Haynes, Tampa

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Designed as entry-level pay - April 8, letter

Times have changed

The letter writer seems to think that we are still living in the 1950s, when higher education nearly automatically meant a well-paying job. But in the 21st century, there are college graduates and people with postgraduate degrees who are unable to find those jobs because those jobs just don't exist. There is a dearth of well-paying jobs, which is at the heart of the push to raise the minimum wage.

Has the writer not heard about the many middle-aged people who have been laid off after working for years, and who have struggled to find any way to support their already existing families? Has she not seen the influx of older people into jobs like clerks and baggers and greeters and hamburger flippers?

The world is changing. Those assured jobs of yesterday are most likely never coming back. We need to make sure that hardworking people at every level are able to sustain themselves.

Laura Vickers, Tampa

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Recall his name for weakening helmet law

April 8

Helmets save lives, money

As a rider myself, I'm tired of hearing the old saw, "Let those who ride decide" when it comes to mandatory helmet laws. We all heard the same argument used when seat belt laws were enacted, but the fact is that thousands of lives have been saved because of them. Ask any paramedic and he will tell you that many motorcycle fatalities could have been prevented by the simple use of a helmet.

In my own case, I survived two serious crashes (neither of which was my fault) because I wore one. I wouldn't even think of riding without it. Drivers in our area are so bad that it probably be a good idea to wear one to drive the car as well.

But the real problem with the lack of a helmet law is the cost to taxpayers. Most of the riders I know carry no insurance. The law says that you must carry a $10,000 insurance policy to ride without a helmet, but who's checking? We, the taxpayers, are paying the ridiculous trauma fees for those with a death wish.

Bob Dalzell, St. Petersburg