Mental health and substance abuse cuts

Possible $210 million dollars to be cut

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - 140,000 Floridians suffering from addiction, anxiety and other mental illnesses could lose services due to spending cuts in the Senate's budget.

The Senate wants to cut $210 million dollars from mental health and substance abuse programs.

Bob Sharpe, the president of the Florida Council for Community Mental Health, says those cuts will force the state to spend more down the road.

"Spend more for corrections, jail admissions; health care the child welfare system, more people will be homeless," said Sharpe.

Rob Weissert, the vice president of research at Florida TaxWatch, says cutting programs that help former felons beat addiction increases the chances those who are denied treatment will end up back in prison.

"Addressing these issues up front can not only save money, but really can reduce future crimes, so it's a very positive way that the state can focus resources to actually reduce the overall costs and enhance public safety," said Weissert.

The state House holds mental health and substance abuse programs harmless in its budget. For the next two weeks they'll be negotiating with the senate to keep those cuts from going through and if the governor has his way, he'll side with the House.

Governor Rick Scott says funding the programs is a priority.

"We've got to make sure we spend the money as wisely as possible, so when we put our budget together, we tried to allocate the dollars because that's part of your job as governor to try to allocate the dollars to the biggest issues you have," said Scott.

Monday the House and Senate start the budget negotiations. If the Senate moves to restore the cuts, something else will have to go. Mental health and drug abuse advocates say along with the loss of services, there will be a loss of jobs. They estimate 5,000 people will be laid off if the Senate gets its way.

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