Statewide reports shows how bad mental health support is in Florida

Published: January 19, 2022 3:42 PM EST
Updated: January 19, 2022 6:04 PM EST

A report released in December paints a bad picture for mental health in Florida.

The Third Interim Report of the 20th Statewide Grand Jury was released by the Florida Attorney General’s Office in December of last year.

It’s a sobering account that outlines a laundry list of issues in Florida’s mental health system.

“Our mental health care ‘system,’ if one can even call it that, is a mess,” the report states.

Alise Bartley, the director of the Community Counseling Center at Florida Gulf Coast University, said she is disappointed but not surprised.

“Our mental health is so very fragile. And it’s been holding on by a thread for many, many years. And now the thread has broken,” Bartley said.

The grand jury points to a number of issues including not enough funding, lack of coordination between services and insufficient leadership at all levels.

The lack of funding stuck out to Bartley.

A study, completed in July, shows FLorida spends just $36.59 per person to treat people with mental health issues.

Only Arizona spends less at $12.49.

Vermont spends the most at $424.66.

But, Bartley said, money can’t be the only answer.

“This isn’t about just throwing whatever, whatever mental health care that is available to someone, it’s about doing that accurate assessment, and being certain we connect them with the right treatment,” Bartley said.

The report also addresses school shootings.

While the number of shootings went down because or remote learning, there is a sense that they will increase when children return to school.

The report shows a sense of urgency to do something now before more children die.

The report crushes state lawmakers for insufficient mental health funding and services.

Bartley said she has seen the need for counseling double in the last two years.

She said Florida needs to do better to prevent children from harming themselves and others.

“Once we get to a point of despair, we’re going to be at a place where we’re going to try to figure out how to get our power back. And one of the ways that some people try to get their power back is by taking it away from others,” Bartley said.

The best way to do that is by what the report says: more funding and better resources.

The issue is dire now because if anyone calls a nonprofit for therapy, the waitlist is likely somewhere between two and three months.

To read the report, follow the link.