Mental health advocates say lawmakers failing to address treatment for opiod addicts

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By: Jake Stofan | Capitol News Service
July 11, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- Governor Rick Scott spent Tuesday touting new legislation increasing penalties for opioid dealers.

But advocates say the lawmakers failed to address a key issue;
treatment for addicts.

About ten Floridans die each day from opioids. This year, lawmakers decided to cut mental health and addiction services by over $11 million.

Mark Fontaine with Florida Health Behavioral Association says that those communities affected by the cut "will have to try and maintain these services, but with 40% less money they wont be able to live up to their goals and expectations."

Advocates say community treatment centers are already experiencing high volumes of patients. In many cases, there aren’t enough beds or general resources to help everyone who comes through their doors.

Lawmakers did increase spending for law enforcement to fight the crisis. The penalties for dealers were also increased.

Mental health advocates say that without increased addiction services, they’re fighting a losing battle.

The Florida Council for Community and Mental Health says the state can’t simply arrest its way out of the problem. Jane Johnson of the FCCMH explained, "The condition of infrastructure in the communities and the interaction with the local mental health centers affects the treatment available to those in need. With proper care and hospitality, they can come out on the other side ready to contribute to society."

Many drug addicts deal with addiction, as well as mental health issues. That’s why advocates say until the state prioritizes services to help with underlying issues, nothing will change.

In addition to the $11 million dollar cut this year, $21 million in federal funds ends after two years, putting the state in an even more precarious situation.

The federal funding does help with medication assisted treatment, but doesn’t go towards detox or residential treatment facilities.

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