The state of Florida is making major strides to improve the state’s mental health disparity by bringing together every professional who plays a role in mental health including clinicians, grassroots organizations, law enforcement agents, judges, state officials and prisons. The goal is for people who are mentally ill to receive the proper help they need instead of imprisonment. Because prisons are overcrowded and inundated with inmates who have committed petty crimes, the cost to local, state and federal governments as well as taxpayers is enormous.
Law enforcement changes focus
Police officers were originally trained to arrest individuals who are causing a ruckus regardless of whether these individuals are mentally ill. The state of Florida is taking a stance to prevent this from happening to those individuals who are clearly mentally ill. Arresting someone who has schizophrenia because he or she is shouting obscenities due to hallucinations will not help that individual. Instead, focus now aims to provide help and guide the person to the proper treatment center instead of sending him or her to a jail holding cell or the emergency room. Setting up community centers, proper treatment centers and a universal protocol, and educating everyone involved in the mental health industry, can help short circuit the prison and hospital systems.
“Law enforcement officers are the least equipped to really handle these problems, and they’re the ones that handle them the most. They need to be able to take these people someplace where you have professionals,” Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri told the Miami Herald. The goal of this is to prevent the usage of jails and prisons as mental hospitals, as jails are often home to people who have mental illnesses who should instead be placed in a proper treatment center and provided appropriate care.
Psychiatric nurses fill a gap
Additionally, the state of Florida has voted to allow psychiatric nurses to prescribe certain medications, as the state and entire nation have a shortage of psychiatrists. Numbers don’t lie.
“A recent survey by the Association of American Medical Colleges found that 59 percent of psychiatrists are 55 or older, the fourth oldest of 41 medical specialties, signaling that many may soon be retiring or reducing their workload,” according to The Huffington Post.
“According to the American Medical Association, the total number of physicians in the U.S. increased by 45 percent from 1995 to 2013, while the number of adult and child psychiatrists rose by only 12 percent, from 43,640 to 49,079. During that span, the U.S. population increased by about 37 percent; meanwhile, millions more Americans have become eligible for mental health coverage under the Affordable Care Act,” The Huffington Post reported.
Mental health budget increases
Florida’s mental health and substance abuse budget has also been increased to implement the changes necessary to improve access to mental health care. This year the budget increased by $65 million for new spending on mental health. Although this is definitely a step in the right direction, this still is not enough to ensure that every person receives the proper mental health treatment they need in the appropriate setting. Overall, the strides of the state of Florida are going in the right direction.
“The goal is straightforward: A coordinated system of services for mental illness and substance abuse in which no matter how someone enters the system, they get the immediate help they need, as well as follow-up services in the future,” the Miami Herald reported.
The Sovereign Health Group is a leading behavioral health treatment provider with locations across the United States. Sovereign Health of Florida treats adults with mental health disorders, addictions and dual diagnosis at our locations in Pompano Beach and Fort Meyers. For more information, please call our 24/7 helpline.
About the author
Kristen Fuller, M.D., is a senior staff writer at the Sovereign Health Group and enjoys writing about evidence-based topics in the cutting-edge world of medicine. She is a physician and author, who also teaches, practices medicine in the urgent care setting and contributes to medicine board education. She is also an outdoor and dog enthusiast. For more information and other inquiries about this article, contact the author at email@example.com.
Sovereign Health Group is a leading addiction, dual diagnosis and mental health treatment provider. Call our admissions team 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to get the help you deserve.