Regarding The Tampa Tribune editorial “Invest in mental health” (Our Views, Jan. 16): It is our belief that your opinion, “When it comes to mental health and substance abuse, Florida’s safety net is thoroughly shredded,” is on target. We strongly agree the problem is not going to go away. Services are needed in the community.
Central Florida Behavioral Health Network is a not-for-profit entity and the managing entity for all substance abuse and mental health services in a 14-county region that includes Hillsborough County. Just in Hillsborough, there are 27,372 persons of all ages living below the poverty level and without insurance who received mental health and substance use treatment services through the Central Florida Behavioral Health Network.
Our mission is to design and manage value-driven integrated systems of specialty health care services, and we accomplish this in a fiscally responsible manner. Although we have an excellent partnership with our network providers and the Florida Department of Children and Families, there has been little, if any, funding increases for our severely and chronically ill population for many years.
With CFBHN, the network has made great strides in serving the people who can get in, but many needed services are very limited.
We have continued to try to help more people, but our providers are stretched to the limit and in some cases are in danger of closing. The results include more people clogging up hospital ERs and jails, or simply living in shelters or on the street — a risky proposition for all.
We firmly agree with your position that the Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott make the commitment, maximize the resources and use some of the billion-dollar budget surplus to address this issue.
Craig Latimer and Linda McKinnon
Latimer is chairman of the board of Central Florida Behavioral Health Network Inc. McKinnon is president and CEO of the agency.