Join Date: Jul 2010
Rep Power: 2446
In other news, the official Republican dominated Florida government response is twiddling their thumbs a bit faster while they continue to drastically cut drug rehabilitation and mental health services.
Police: Naked man bites off part of man's arm
A man was arrested after police said he went to his girlfriend's house to visit his kids Wednesday, but instead stripped naked, started screaming and bit off part of another man's arm.
The Manatee County Sheriff's Office said Charles Baker, 26, of Palmetto, went to his girlfriend's home to visit his children while under the influence of a drug.
Investigators said he barged into the home, started cursing and yelling, took off all his clothes and started throwing furniture around.
Jeffrey Blake, 48, who was at the home, tried to restrain Baker, but Baker used his teeth, biting off part of Blake's bicep, the Sheriff's Office said. Blake wrestled Baker to the ground and held him until deputies arrived.
The Sheriff's Office said Baker, who was still naked, tried to rush the deputies, who shocked him with a stun gun.
Baker was taken to a hospital for an evaluation before being taken to jail.
The Sheriff's Office said it is unknown what type of drug Baker may have been on.
Here’s crazy: Reducing money to treat mental illness in Florida
By Fred Grimm
Thank God for Texas. Else we’d rank as the most barbaric backwater in the nation. Even infamously unenlightened states like Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina spend more per capita on mental health than Florida.
Joe Negron aims to fix that. The powerful state senator from Hobe Sound, who oversees the Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services Appropriations, has pushed a $76.1 million reduction in the state’s mental health services budget through the Senate. Another $31.6 million would come out of the state’s substance abuse treatment programs.
Florida would be alone at the nadir. (Thank God, then, for Honduras.)
If the Senate version prevails over a less Draconian appropriation in the House, 34 percent of the mental health funding, and 25.5 percent of the money for substance abuse, would disappear. Some 140,000 patients would be tossed from their community treatment programs. A number of these non-profit programs would shut down. (Even without the Negron cuts, the Department of Children & Families has admitted that it hasn’t been able to provide services to 170,000 adults and 40,000 children with serious mental illnesses.)
But Negron, a self-described libertarian, doesn’t believe in funding community treatment programs as a matter of philosophy. Last September, in a rambling opening statement before the Senate appropriations committee, Sen. Negron explained why he thought treatment money would be better spent elsewhere. He dismissed the notion that if we sent our mentally ill and drug addicts (often, in the real world, the same patients) to “classes, and have more programs, they would not do the things that they are doing and we don’t want them to do.
“I would argue that the majority of things that people do that cause negative things to happen to [them] and the people they care about are not a result of the lack of information, they’re a result of a lack of willpower, a lack of discipline, a lack of character.”
Mental illness, as far as Negron’s concerned, seems to be a lifestyle choice by an irresponsible rabble.
To be fair, he did admit that some of Florida’s afflicted are victims of circumstance. But he still wasn’t inclined to help. “You know what — you can’t solve all problems,” he said. “If you grow up and your father abandoned the family and you don’t know where your father is, he’s not [meeting] his responsibilities. If you have a mother, through no fault of her own, who may have an issue, who may have something where she is not able to take care of you and you are bouncing from foster home to foster home, let’s be honest with ourselves. There’s only so much we can do.”
Negron, obviously, dwells out there on the political fringe. But that doesn’t matter in the modern incarnation of the state Legislature, which imbues a few politicians with outlandish power. (Just ask the administrators at the University of South Florida what happened when they crossed a single, powerful legislator like Sen. J.D. Alexander.) Negron’s odd views prevailed in the Senate not because anyone much agreed with him but because he’ll be back next year in an even more formidable position. Besides, cutting out the mentally ill and substance abusers, not exactly constituencies apt to get organized before the next election, reduces the state’s budget deficit by a sweet $108 million.
The House version doesn’t cut the programs, but Bob Sharpe, president of the Florida Council for Community Mental Health, worries that budget negotiators will be so preoccupied with the Senate bill’s equally devastating $620 million cut in hospital Medicaid payments that they’ll not muster a defense for community mental health funding. He worries that the mental health cuts could become a convenient negotiating chit for saving the hospitals.
Of course, it’s not like the mentally ill, without treatment, will just go away. (Or, as Negron supposes, come to their senses.) They will be wandering the streets, live in homeless settlements, commit petty crimes, get scarfed up by police. Police in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties handled 16,000 mental health-related calls last year. Without the crisis intervention programs, police will have no option but to haul these folks off to jail.
The mentally ill are already the fastest-growing segment of the state prison population. And one of the most expensive to house. Sharpe suggested that Florida spends more per capita on corrections than all but 11 other states exactly because Florida spends so little on mental health intervention.
Most of the financial burden will land on local governments. The real costs of Negron’s cuts will be borne by county jails and public hospital emergency rooms.
Unless, of course, the mentally afflicted choose to adopt another, less costly lifestyle.
The biggest-ever reduction in mental health and drug treatment funding passed by the Florida Senate this week will cost taxpayers even more in jails, hospitals and police if it goes forward, some say.
But this area's state senator said it's time to turn to cheaper means of delivering care, given the state's cash crunch.
Florida is 50th among the states and the District of Columbia -- only Texas spends less -- when funding for mental health agencies like Meridian Behavioral Healthcare is measured on a per-capita basis, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan, health policy not-for-profit think tank.
The state Senate wants to reduce state funding for those services by 25 percent -- about $83 million -- next year, which concerns doctors, law enforcement, homeless advocates and prison officials alike.
“It's going to make a bad situation worse,” said Dr. Gary Gillette, an emergency room physician at North Florida Regional Medical Center. “I deal with it on a daily basis, and it's been getting worse.”
“There are less and less places for them (those with mental issues and substance abuse problems) to get care,” he added.
Faced with a budget shortfall of more than $1 billion, the state House has proposed cuts that would hit nursing homes, while the Senate has opted to reduce state spending on drug treatment and mental health services.
Details of how the Senate's proposed cut would affect Meridian, the area's largest provider of mental health and drug treatment services to those with little or no insurance, haven't been released yet. But supporters say such a cut and the resulting reduction in services at the agency based on Southwest 13th Street would ripple throughout the area.
“I can't predict the future, but what I can say is we do work closely with Meridian …,” said Lt. Whitney Stout, who supervises the Gainesville Police Departmentt's crisis intervention team. “And as their services are cut, people who suffer from mental illnesses are going to have more crises, and it's going to lead to more calls to the police.”
THE BEST OF BAD OPTIONS?
Sen. Steve Oelrich, R-Cross Creek, said he agrees with his Senate colleague, Joe Negron, the Stuart Republican in charge of the state's health care budget, that the House's proposed cuts hurt nursing home residents who need the state's help through no fault of their own.
He said he doesn't agree with Negron's thinking that the elderly and disabled should have priority over the needs of mentally ill adults, however.
“I've done law enforcement for 30 years, and not dealing with the mentally ill can overload the system,” he said.
For drug treatment, though, he said he'd like to see the state boost options that are less costly to taxpayers, such as Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous. These programs have great track records, he said.
“We're doing triage here,” he said. “We only have a certain amount of money, and we have to pick what groups don't get that money and what groups get half of what they used to get.”
But Maggie Labarta, president and chief executive officer of Meridian, said programs through NA and AA, while highly successful, do not include treatment.
“Many people who are successful in these 12-step groups have already participated in treatment,” she said. “What makes effective drug treatment is engagement, structure and evidence-based practices.”
Labarta said that already, with the capacity Meridian has, there are more than 100 waiting for drug treatment services and nearly 200 waiting for mental health services, including beds. Her agency is the last resort for these people -- outside of prison, shelters or hospitals, she said.
“Either population, if you start to erode the safety net -- already the most threadbare in the country -- they'll have no place to turn without costing the system even more,” she said. “Lives that could have been rich and full will be lost.”
Among those who encounter the casualties of drugs and mental illness, there's widespread agreement that cuts like these could be costlier in the long run.
Art Forgey, public information officer at the Alachua County Sheriff's Office, said he's hearing stories unlike any others before -- such as the one about a man in Palm Beach County who has been held in custody under the state's Baker Act 50 times in the past year because of the danger he presented to himself or others. That means the man was continually put into the situation where treatment costs the most -- an emergency, he said.
“It's almost impossible to get a person with a severe and persistent mental illness into a psychiatric bed,” Forgey said. “At some point, we have to ask ourselves, what is the point that we'll reach that we can no longer get by? I think we're getting there.”
His sentiments are echoed at the Gainesville Police Department and at the city homeless shelter, St. Francis House.
A draft report for the Florida College of Emergency Physicians from the University of South Florida faculty shows that the number of people with psychiatric diagnoses -- including drug overdoses -- who were admitted to Florida's hospitals has increased nearly 25 percent between 2006 and 2010.
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