Jacksonville Mental Health Advocates Brace For Legislative Session

Dec 8, 2016

JCCI's mental health report identified the major areas of the treatment system that need reform.
Credit JCCI

Duval County mental health advocates are celebrating the state Legislature’s moderate progress this year toward reforming Florida’s mental-health system.


Many of the changes were recommended in the report “Unlocking the Pieces: Community Mental Health in Northeast Florida,” authored by nonprofit researcher Jacksonville Community Council Inc. two years ago.

JCCI took a look ahead Wednesday at what still needs to be done, as Florida remains second-to-last in the nation for per-patient mental-health funding.

JCCI found deficiencies in several mental health care categories, and a task force has been working to implement recommendations. Chair of the taskforce Pat Hogan said the news coming out of Tallahassee has been mostly positive.

“Some of them were fully realized, some were partially realized, and a few of them we did not have any success,” she said.

The Legislature approved a pilot program to divert people with mental illness from jail — though the funding for that program was not passed — as well as the creation of state standards for mental health courts, and an expansion of nurse prescribing power. Advocates were also instrumental in securing some funding for what’s called a central receiving system, where patients can be connected with social services. The county still needs to raise $1.5 million for it to open though.

With a tight state budget expected next year and so much left to do, Hogan is worried progress may stall.

“All we can do is continue with our advocacy efforts and make sure that we have a loud, vocal and recurring presence,” she said. “Speak to legislators that we know we can count on and hope for the best. But I’m not overly optimistic about this upcoming session,” she said.

Hogan said mental health care proponents should focus on the local level to keep changes coming.

Reporter Ryan Benk can be reached at rbenk@wjct.org, at (904) 358 6319 or onTwitter @RyanMichaelBenk.