Hillsborough Chief Judge Ronald Ficarrotta has been appointed to the Commission on Mental Health and Substance Abuse.
Gov. Ron DeSantis made the appointment Friday, the Tampa-based 13th Judicial Circuit said in a news release Monday.
The commission was created by the Florida Legislature earlier this year to study the mental health and substance abuse services currently available in the state and to look at ways to improve them.
During his time as chief judge for the 13th Judicial Circuit, Ficarrotta helped set up the Mental Health Court in 2017. Two years later, he started Florida’s first Juvenile Mental Health Court, the release said, and he presides over both exclusively.
“Florida’s jails and prisons are not equipped or designed to deal with serious mental illness. So the use of the proven problem-solving court model is a logical response to addressing mental health needs in our courts,” Ficarrotta said in a statement.
Ficarrotta, a Tampa native, began his career as an assistant state attorney in Hillsborough County. In 1994, Gov. Lawton Chiles appointed him to the Hillsborough County bench. Ficarrotta was elevated to the 13th Judicial Circuit bench by Gov. Jeb Bush in 1999, and he was first elected as the circuit’s chief judge in 2015.