News & Features » News

Untreated mental illness is rampant in Florida jails, while mental health funding is almost the lowest in the nation

Arresting situations

by

Page 2 of 5

Until the 2014 incident, Stiles' criminal record has been clean since a collection of burglary and weapon charges dating back to 1989.

Stiles says he's fine when he's on his meds.

He says he regrets the way the incident turned out and blames himself in some capacity for what happened. However, he also isn't a fan of how the jail treats the mentally ill.

"I should have gone to Lakeside," he says. "But there should be other places to go to. It's more convenient for them to take us to jail."

Stiles' case is not an anomaly. Inmates at the Orange County Jail too often find themselves trapped in a vicious cycle of imprisonment – homeless and often suffering mental illness, they get arrested if they act out on the streets. Then, when they're released, the cycle simply starts over.

And it isn't helped by how tight Florida's wallet is when it comes to spending for mental health needs.

A study by the Florida Policy Institute states that in 2014, the last time the data was collected, only $36.05 per person was spent on mental health needs in Florida, putting us dead last in the entire country. That's even less than the 2012 per-person spending, which was $37.28.

By contrast, Maine spent the most in the nation – $362.75 per person was spent on mental health in 2014, up from $338 in 2012.

The United States average for mental health spending in 2014 was $125.90 per person, the study says, which is more than three times what Florida spent.

Another number that paints Florida in a negative light is how many uninsured people are living with mental illness. In the FPI's 2017 "Report of Mental Health America," it's reported that there were approximately 594,000 in the state fitting that criteria, making Florida the third worst in the nation.

This doesn't bode well for them in terms of staying out of jail. The Florida Policy Institute's study doesn't mince words – they say it's "crucial" that Florida start redirecting more funds toward the issue of mental health.

"Acts of violence by people with mental illness are associated with the lack of needed mental health services," the study reads. "Further, serious mental illness can trap individuals in a lifetime of poverty, dependency and homelessness. Untreated mental illness has significant fiscal consequences for state and local governments and exacts a high toll on the nation's economy. It can also lead to costly and frequent hospitalization, institutionalization and recurrent involvement in the criminal justice system."

Florida Policy Institute president Joseph Pennisi says the problem comes down to not enough being done to help the mentally ill.

comment

Tags