Many Mentally Ill Floridians Spending Time in Jail

A Pinellas County judge issued the ruling, calling DCF arrogant for not funding enough treatment beds to address a critical shortage throughout the state.

DCF officials admit dropping the ball on the issue. Thousands of people with varying degrees of mental illness wander Florida streets untreated.

Many end up behind bars for petty crimes, sometimes for months because the state doesn’t have near enough treatment facilities.

Sheriff's Association President Larry Campbell says local lockups are not equipped to deal with mentally-ill inmates.

Larry Campbell, Leon County Sheriff, said, "One person gouged an eye out in one facility. Another person gouged both her eyes out in another facility. These people are, many of them are self-destructive, we have to put them on suicide watch."

The law requires the Department of Children and Families to find adequate treatment within 15 days of an inmate’s being found mentally incompetent, but the number of mentally ill inmates has exploded from 400 or so a year to 1,400, and the state hasn’t kept pace.

The anger from all over the state is reaching critical mass. One judge threatened to have a mentally-ill inmate dropped off at DCF Secretary Lucy Hadi’s office to let her deal with the problem.

We caught up with Secretary Hadi, and she admits the state has massively underestimated and under-funded the problem.

Lucy Hadi with the Florida Department of Children and Families said, "If there’s fault in this regard, it would be ours for not having done a better job in the last year and a half to two years in projecting the need."

DCF says its number one priority for the coming year is additional treatment facilities, and they’re asking for more than $4 million for 102 new beds, but even that won’t come close to meeting the needs of the whole state.