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Mental Health Care Slips through the Cracks in Florida’s Budget

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Tara Calligan

When Florida lawmakers approved a last-minute budget in special session earlier this year, $20.4 million in federal funding for mental health services expired with no plans to make up for it.

Now, mental health and substance abuse facilities across the state are looking at slashing services—sometimes in half—because of the surprise de-funding.

Salus Care in Fort Myers is looking at $750,000 less in state funding, which they say means they have to cut the number of beds for children in crisis. In a year, that will mean 800 children will be turned away. In psychiatric services, they say 250 people would not receive help. SalusCare says pregnant women who are hooked on drugs will find 1,000 fewer days of service, meaning their babies will most likely be born addicted.

Two case managers who work with 160 substance abuse patients will be let go, and the patients in the Transitional Living Center who are working through addiction will see 2,482 days of service cut- in the middle of a national opioid epidemic which has been declared a national emergency by President Donald Trump

Those in the field are calling it a devastating budget shortfall; a drop in funding that had been in place for a decade. Mental health leaders and even some lawmakers were blindsided by the missing $20.4 million when the budget took effect on July 1. 

Today on the show we’ll talk with Stacy Cook Hawke, the CEO of SalusCare about why no one saw this coming, and what local lawmakers are planning to do in a joint House and Senate budget meeting set for September 15.

Julie Glenn is the News Director and the host of Gulf Coast Live. She joined the WGCU team in November of 2016 to expand the Gulf Coast Live call-in radio show from once a week to five days a week.  Since then, the show has been recognized in state and regional competitions and has featured artists, political leaders, historians, environmental experts, doctors, local reporters, and national and international scholars. After leading the station's award-winning coverage of Hurricane Irma in September of 2017, Julie was named Interim News Director. In January of 2018, she launched WGCU's first podcast: Grape Minds.
Matthew Smith is a reporter and producer of WGCU’s Gulf Coast Live.