Florida’s Commission on Mental Health and Substance Abuse released their January 2023 report which outlines long-term opportunities for the state to improve mental health outcomes and disparities.
Our state ranks 48th nationwide on access to mental health care — an estimated 633,000 Florida adults with mental illness and 116,000 youth with depression have unmet treatment needs. These figures have likely increased since the outbreak of COVID-19. Despite these unmet needs, Florida's per capita funding for behavioral health, as compared to the rest of the nation, ranks in the bottom.
But it is not just the level of funding that is problematic. Inadequate funding is exacerbated by our state's over-reliance on time-limited, uncertain funding to support core services, and an extraordinarily fragmented administrative structure for distribution of and accountability for these dollars.
The Legislature annually dedicates funds to the Department of Children and Families (DCF) for behavioral health services, including through multiple specific appropriations to designated local private providers of these services. These are typically funded through “non-recurring” general revenue, which means that every year these providers must go “hat in hand” to legislators to justify the ongoing need for these funds. While this keeps a good number of lobbyists employed, it adds to the overall expense and uncertainty that Floridians will be able to get and keep the services they need.
Another source of funding for core behavioral health services are time-limited federal grants, such as grants to combat the opioid epidemic. While these are extremely important sources of support, too often the state puts little or no complementary investment in these services.
Now more than ever, Florida lawmakers need to invest in behavioral health services, so our state can better respond to public health emergencies and build broader long-term resilience for our families and communities. This includes: