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Florida TaxWatch: Florida’s Mental Health Services underfunded, but making a difference for patients

Even with a shrinking budget, Florida's mental health treatment system provides positive outcomes for Floridians with mental health issues, according to an independent analysis from the Florida TaxWatch, however, the watchdog group recommends options to improve the system. TaxWatch's latest report investigates the state's mental health network to determine whether state-funded mental health care is adequately meeting the needs of Florida patients. "Mental health problems affect many members of our communities, from children in our elementary schools to retirees in nursing homes, and ensuring individuals are getting the help they need is truly a matter of public safety," said Dominic M. Calabro, President and CEO of Florida TaxWatch, the independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit taxpayer research institute and government watchdog. "It is critical that our state's mental health dollars are spent most efficiently to provide care to those who need it most, and our state's Behavioral Health Managing Entities are helping to do that, even with minimal funding." Florida provides substance abuse and mental health services to uninsured Floridians through seven regional nonprofit organizations known as Behavioral Health Managing Entities. Florida's regional service delivery model allows for services to be tailored to community needs at a lower cost to the state. Florida TaxWatch finds that the state's managing entities have resulted in increased accountability for their service providers, better assessment of local community needs and more efficient use of state tax dollars. While Florida's Behavioral Health Managing Entities system works efficiently, its network providers suffer from underfunding. Florida ranks 49th in the nation for per capita mental health expenditures; however, the TaxWatch analysis shows that even with funding reductions, Behavioral Health Managing Entities continue to meet efficiency and patient standards, better leveraging more services for fewer dollars. Florida TaxWatch recommends that the state increase funding for mental health services and allow more flexible use of funding to better meet local needs, address coverage gaps for young adults no longer eligible for services and require new outcome reporting measures to ensure effective service delivery.

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