Treat Substance Abuse, Mental Illness to Help cut Florida’s Budget

Posted: January 21, 2011 in News and politics

Treat Substance Abuse, Mental Illness to Help Cut Florida’s Budget Published: Saturday, January 15, 2011 at 12:01 a.m. The state has a budget deficit. One area where large savings can be found is in providing effective community treatment rather than incarceration. Florida has more than 100,000 in 60 prisons and plans to build 10 more. There are thousands more in county jails. The Florida Substance Abuse and Mental Health Corp. reports 66 percent of the inmates have substance-abuse problems and many are mentally ill. Few receive badly needed treatment. A criminal record is difficult to overcome. Florida ranks 16th in the nation in incarceration and 48th in mental health treatment per capita funding. Treatment works, two examples: Florida Assertive Community Treatment Teams provide intensive treatment for the most severely mentally ill, 24/7, resulting in a 75 percent reduction in hospitalization and incarceration. Just 10 teams in the whole state exist. Many more are needed. The Polk County Drug Court jail diversion and community treatment program reports an 86 percent graduation rate and a 14 percent recidivism rate after six years vs 67 percent of general prison population. The state now spends $2.3 billion each year operating 137 correction facilities and $3.6 billion more is planned building and operating 10 more prisons. Gov. Rick Scott promises to cut wasteful spending. Increasing funding for community treatment for mental health and substance-abuse services will reduce the need for more prisons, save lives, increase public safety and reduce costs to taxpayers. CARL REED Lakeland This story appeared in print on page A10 Copyright © 2011 — All rights reserved. Restricted use only.

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