This year Florida has taken large, historic strides to help those who are addicted to drugs and alcohol as well as those who are suffering from a mental illness, thanks to the laws that were passed by state Legislature.
A longtime advocate for this pressing issue, Miami-Dade’s Associate Judge Steve Leifman, told the Miami Herald, “I would call this the most substantive changes to the way we treat those suffering with mental illness and substance abuse since the Baker Act passed 45 years ago.”
Not only do the new laws help addicts and those who have a mental illness, it also requires that law enforcement, the criminal-justice system, and health professions to provide a united front when finding treatment for those who are suffering from these particular afflictions. For far too long, the jails and prisons in Florida have been the only “treatment centers” available as a first resort, which are absolutely inappropriate locations for conducting rehabilitation.
In just a couple months, the people who are affected by addiction and mental issues who may find themselves in trouble with the law because of those very same reasons, will find themselves experiencing a more humane system.
This new approach has been give the name “no wring door” which will help guide them into the appropriate centers, whether that be a rehab or a psychiatric facility, instead of abandoning them behind bars or leaving them to their own devices on the streets without any sign of social-service assistance—which is often the case when it comes to Miami’s homeless.
These new laws provide a sense of peace for the family who are tired of seeing their loved ones washed through an endless cycle the current systems seems to support; the cycle grows monotonous and tires out the afflicted which could lead to them harming themselves or engaging in a fatal confrontation with police.
The health budget chairman, State Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, who has held office for the past two years and also co-sponsored a good number of these changes, says the goal of these new laws is simple. “The impact is just really making it easier for families to navigate the system.”
Others like Garcia who are behind the new laws didn’t just pay lip service–they went as far as to make sure that the new actions were funded before making any changes.
The newly updated budget for this year includes a $65 million increase in spending for programs pertaining to mental health and substance abuse.
In the spirit of total disclosure, it’s important to know that recently an investigation done by the Tampa Bay Times/ Sarasota Herald-Tribune brought to light the fact that in recent years $100 million has been tapped, by the state, from the very same pot the “new” money is to be stored.
Judge Leifman makes it clear that, “The money is really just being restored.” The situation will have to be monitored to make sure money isn’t “borrowed” unexpectedly but still, this is a huge step in the right direction.
All in all, since Gov. Scott assumed office, the budget for Miami-Dade’s substance abuse and mental health services has drastically increased from $943 million to $1.1 billion. Though the increase will significantly impact the success of these programs, it’s still not enough to fully secure treatment for everyone; though it is a step toward change that is needed, and a much better use of taxpayer’s money.
Three primary laws were created as the outline for this overhaul and each address the problems from different angles: Looking beyond the “no wrong door” plans, the Government Administration also permitted courts to suggest that treatment be used in cases relating to those who are suffering from mental disorders, as well as voted to allow psychiatric nurses the ability to prescribe certain medication, which would make up for the lack of psychiatrists available on a nationwide level.
One of the major components to this systems reconstruction is the additional 160 workers that will be fed into the mental-health hospitals statewide, which in recent years has become severely short-staffed.
All of these improvements plus many others are going to be used to rebuild what is left of the states damaged mental-health system. If these are the steps that are being taken now to ensure that everyone receives the help they need, the future of Florida and Miami-Dade is bright and something to look forward too.