Florida, put a premium on mental health care as public safety issue

Florida, put a premium on mental health care as public safety issue

The December slaughter of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., instigated a national dialog on mental health care after the public learned of the assailant’s troubled history. In a broad strategy to contain mass shootings and random violence, earlier this month President Obama unveiled a sweeping package of gun control measures along with an expansion of mental health care services.

The nation — and Florida in particular — has long under valued mental health care. Some 30 states have cut mental health care spending over the past five years, eliminating thousands of beds for patients and slashing treatment options — including for people caught up in the criminal justice system.

Hundreds of thousands of Florida residents are not receiving any treatment, the Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau reported last week. With the state’s mental health care spending cut by more than 30 percent in the past six years, Florida now ranks an appalling 49th in the country in per capita funding for this critical medical service.