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Could mental health budget cuts affect opioid battle?

Legislature takes heat for cutting mental health spending amid opioid crisis

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Legislature has been taking heat for cutting mental health spending after promising a greater commitment to fight the opioid crisis in the state.

But some mental health advocates are saying the two issues have been misleadingly intertwined.

The state of Florida received $27 million in federal funding to help fight the opioid crisis, while money for mental health services dropped by $20 million.

More than $17 million of the federal funding is dedicated to medication based treatment plans, such as methadone.

But mental health advocates say the federal money can be used to provide mental health services to those being treated for opioid addiction.

“It includes an assessment of the person's condition and then a diagnosis and the actual medication. But then [also includes] the wraparound services like counseling and therapy, peer support and on-going counseling,” said Jane Johnson of the Florida Council for Community and Mental Health.

Mental health advocates say medication treatment options have proven to be more effective than others.

“That medication treatment stabilizes the patient so they can be receptive to the counseling and the peer supports that without the medication could take months and months for someone actually to respond to,” Johnson said.

But how long will the federal funds provide mental health services to those addicted to opiates?

Without federal aid and with a lack of funding for state mental health services, many could be left without long-term support.

“So you have somebody with high blood pressure who has a cardiac event and then they recover from the cardiac event, but they've still got the high blood pressure,” said Dr. Jay Reeve, president of the Apalachee Center. “So what you really don't want to do is take them off their heart medication.”

Mental health advocates say it's imperative the Legislature address the lack of mental health funding if they ever hope to tackle the underlying causes of addiction.

One of the biggest cuts to mental health services was Central Receiving Facility funding, which provides treatment for those suffering from mental health issues who are arrested by police. Oftentimes, those brought in are suffering from addiction.