Vote on keeping mentally ill out of prisons

04/07/08 Mitch E. Perry
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Tomorrow in Tallahassee, in the House Healthcare Council, lawmakers will vote on the Community Mental Health/Substance Abuse Treatment and Crime Reduction Act, also known as the Supreme Court Plan. That’s because a report produced by six retired justices of the Florida Supreme Court last fall called for legislators to fund an $8 million diversion program that would keep the chronically mentally ill out of the criminal justice system and get them the treatment they need.

With the budget deficit crises in the state, asking for $8 million dollars for anything new is an extremely dubious proposition. And mental health advocates have not enjoyed success in trying to keep funding just a at last year’s levels.

Miami Dade County Judge Steve Leifman, a special adviser to the state Supreme Court on mental health issues, says that if something isn’t changed, the number of inmates with mental illnesses will double in the next decade – to 32,000, and would fill 20 prisons.

There is reportedly support for this bill in the House – passage in the state Senate is not as assured.

Michelle Saunders from Florida Partners in Crises says that the funds needed for this problem need to be made available.

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