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The Sunshine State's Failings

Updated: Jan 27, 2022

American society has increasingly put a focus on mental health. With bills like the 2019 Mental Health Access Improvement Act and the 2015 Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Acts on the floor, the subject has shifted from an unspoken taboo into the spotlight. Legislators and citizens alike recognize the importance of access to mental health care in America, yet in certain states issues remain regarding mental health policies. Florida, one of the most egregious offenders, consistently puts forth minuscule funding and effort into mental health care.

In Florida, mental health increasingly becomes a larger and larger issue. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness Greater Orlando, around 660,000 adults and 181,000 children in Florida live with a severe mental illness. An account by Mental Health America finds Florida to be the 12th highest state in terms of the prevalence of mental illness. Despite this, the state consistently places at the bottom of national rankings in regards to mental health care, ranking 48th when assessing access to mental health, and last in states for mental health spending with an average of $36 per person every year. In simplest terms, Florida does not pay enough on mental health care considering the myriad of Floridians that require proper mental health attention.

The importance of mental health care spending becomes more crucial when looking at other states in comparison to Florida. California, for instance, ranks among the highest in mental health spending, and in turn, reports fewer rates of mental health conditions than the national average according to Pew Research. This research shows that mental health spending provides opportunity for healing. By spending more on programs and treatment, prevention of mental health conditions becomes more possible. States like Florida report high rates of mental health issues because of lackluster funding and poor organization of said funds. In areas like West Florida, there is a widespread shortage of hospital space that government spending could potentially alleviate. Funding for mental health programs serves as an important tool in the fight for mental wellbeing, and unfortunately, Florida consistently ignores that fact.

More issues arise when one looks into the decision-making and organization of funding for mental health programs. In Florida, legislatures decide on mental health spending yearly, as each respective legislator has to make their case for a respective program to receive funding. These funds, a non-recurring expense, pose a challenge for different programs. The other main source of funding for mental health programs in Florida comes in the form of different grants, which are every bit as unreliable as the aforementioned state funding. Many programs in Florida avoid expansion due to the lack of stable funding. This leads to another of Florida’s consistent failures, as this lack of consistent funding puts yet another roadblock for people who need treatment.

The organization of funds poses another challenge for Florida. Florida has no

central organizing body for its mental health programs’ funding, which makes coordination and transparency with funds far more difficult than it is in other states. This lack of coordination can create gridlock in the gears of mental health care and can create issues for those seeking treatment. In 2019, California adopted a mental health czar, Thomas Insel, and through his work, California has lowered its rates of mental health conditions. Coordination serves as a pivotal aspect of a state’s response to the mental health crisis in America, and Florida’s utter lack of proper coordination poses yet another challenge for Floridians who suffer from mental health conditions.

Florida’s response to the mental health crisis in America is underwhelming to say the least. Despite the large amount of people who suffer from mental illness in Florida, the state consistently underfunds mental health care, and when it does fund these programs, it does so poorly. With increased and consistent funding, as well as a body that can properly organize, regulate, and coordinate such funding, Florida may finally provide for its residents with mental health struggles.

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