FLORIDA’S CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM AMONG WORST PLACES IN NATION FOR MENTALLY ILL
Report: Medicaid Expansion Could Provide Critical Funds for Mental Health Services While Saving State Millions
(Miami, Florida – June 26, 2020) – Decades of disinvestment in the state’s mental health care system has led to the institutionalization of the severely mentally ill in Florida prisons and jails, depriving individuals of essential care, and straining state and local budgets, according to a new report issued by the Florida Health Justice Project (FHJP).
“Mental Illness and Criminal Justice in Florida: The Case for Medicaid Expansion” by Alison Yager, FHJP’s Deputy Executive Director, finds that expanding Medicaid in Florida would support access to critical community-based care and treatment for the mentally ill, avert inappropriate and expensive incarceration, and reduce recidivism.
Mental health services are costly; failure to connect those in need with critical services is more costly. Treatment of mentally ill individuals in Florida prisons and jails costs the state approximately $625 million annually, or $1.7 million per day. Furthermore, without strategic reform, the number of incarcerated individuals with serious mental illness is projected to grow, escalating costs without addressing the needs of individuals with mental illness.
Florida faces catastrophic losses in state revenues due to the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing deep cuts in healthcare services, including mental health. If the state expanded Medicaid, it could save up to $200 million currently used for mental health services for uninsured Floridians with low incomes. The state would also net a projected savings of $57.5 million for in-patient hospital care of incarcerated individuals
“Medicaid expansion opens pathways to mental health treatment in Florida,” Yager said. “Right now, the state ranks 40th in the nation in access to mental health care. Without systemic change, Florida faces an endless loop of inadequate access to care, and inappropriate, expensive incarceration of individuals with mental illness.”
“Medicaid expansion is key to ensuring more Floridians with mental illness have access to the essential healthcare services and support needed,” said Scott Darius, Executive Director of Florida Voices for Health.
Medicaid expansion would divert individuals with mental illness to appropriate services and treatment, and away from the criminal justice system. Access to Medicaid for those released from prisons and jails would also allow for connection to treatment for substance abuse and mental illness, reducing rates of recidivism. Medicaid expansion is key to ending the criminalization of those with mental illness.
“Florida lawmakers have been underfunding mental health care for years, and the result is thousands of individuals with untreated mental illness being caught up in the criminal justice system,” said Anne Swerlick, Senior Policy Analyst & Attorney of the Florida Policy Institute. “Expanding Medicaid to all adults with low income is a common-sense solution for Florida.”
Link to Mental Illness and Criminal Justice Report in Florida Report and Fact Sheet: https://www.floridahealthjustice.org/mental-illness-and-criminal-justice-in-florida.html
Florida Health Justice Project (FHJP) recognizes that access to quality and affordable health care is a human right and engages in comprehensive advocacy to expand healthcare access and promote health equity for vulnerable. FHJP is part of the Medicaid Matters for Florida, a coalition spearheaded by Florida Voices for Health, Florida Policy Institute and FHJP. The coalition is focused on building a learning community of partner organizations in support of expanding Medicaid to adults with low income.