Florida Partners in Crisis honors champions listen08/28/08 Seán Kinane
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The goals of the group Florida Partners in Crisis include reducing the number of people with mental health and substance abuse issues in the criminal justice system. During their bimonthly board meeting in Tampa today, Partners in Crisis honored legislators and set goals for next legislative session.
Republican Sen. Victor Crist and Reps. Bill Galvano and Ed Homan were given the Florida Partners in Crisis 2008 “Champion Award” for legislation they sponsored. Florida law does not require health insurance companies to cover mental illnesses to the same degree as physical illnesses. But last year Homan, who represents District 60 in northern Hillsborough County, introduced a bill to require parity between the two. It passed the House unanimously, but stalled in the Senate.
Homan, who is also a professor of orthopedic surgery at USF's medical school, said that about 26 percent of people will have a mental illness at some time in their life and about 10 percent suffer from long-term mental illness.
Bill Janes is director in the Governor’s Office of Drug Control and Assistant Secretary for Substance Abuse and Mental Health in the Department of Children and Families (DCF). Janes said that during diagnosis and treatment DCF encourages “alignment” between substance abuse and mental health services.
Co-occurring treatment will be a standard within DCF, Janes said, and it would be encouraged throughout state government.
Lobbyist Bob Sharpe is also on the Florida Partners in Crisis Legislative Committee and presented the 2009 legislative priorities for the group. Sharpe said a legislative priority is to pass the November 2007 recommendations of the Florida Supreme Court regarding incarceration of people who have mental illness.
Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) owe the state of Florida money. Sharpe said this is because they did not meet requirements to spend 80 percent of Medicaid funds they receive from the state for mental health care for direct services.
Sharpe said a fund should be created so that money could be reinvested to help people seeking mental health care.