Repercussions from the Sandy Hook tragedy slight in Florida

It looks like Florida may not suffer as extensively from the fallout over the Newtown Connecticut massacre as some other states. The Palm Beach Post headline,  State May Shrink Mental Health Spending, doesn’t tell the whole story.

Despite a growth in the state’s anticipated revenue for the first time in six years, Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed 2013-2014 budget does not include any increase for mental health services. Neither Scott nor GOP legislative leaders mentioned the issue as a priority on the opening day of the legislative session Tuesday. And lawmakers appear split on the only two proposals in play — mandatory mental health screening of elementary school students and extending the observation period for patients who are involuntarily committed by law enforcement or health officials.

The problem concerns these two pieces of legislation that I hope our legislators will have the common sense and decency to table or vote down. Busting school children for “mental illness” is what mandatory mental health screening is all about and, frankly, if there’s one thing we don’t need, that is it. Labeling children “mentally ill”, and putting them on powerful pharmaceuticals, is not good for their educations, nor is it good for their futures. Extending the Baker Act would be a completely absurd, unnecessary, and as far as humanity goes, a wasteful thing to do.

Thankfully, given our republican controlled legislature, as bad as things are, these representatives are not in hurry to make them worse. Praised be the tightwad when the spending he isn’t spending on is repressive and draconian legislation.

The issue with spending is that it could, if it were used for something else besides busting people for “mental illness”, reduce mental health spending in the state anyway.

More than half of Florida’s mental health spending goes to hospitalization. Other states, on average, spend less than 30 percent on hospitalization, said Florida Council for Community Mental Health President Bob Sharpe.

Hospitalization is very costly. Keeping people out of the state hospital system through building a statewide community mental health care system is one way to potentially save a lot of money.

As for the Baker Act…

DCF estimates that 35,000 out of 110,770 people held under the Baker Act last year had been Baker Acted before. Sharpe points to at least one man who was Baker Acted 100 times in a single year, meaning he was hospitalized nearly the entire year.

It would seem that one person would have a pretty good case for suing the state, if he had any legal rights to stand on at all, which apparently, as a mental patient, he doesn’t.  On the other hand, when the state can Baker Act one person 100 times in the course of a single year, there is certainly no reason to extend the Baker Act. It seems institutions here have that power already.

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One Response

  1. Oh, I am sure they will find that all those children are complete loons. What a boost for the drug pushers.

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