Florida House lawmakers are checking in on a 2016 measure meant to improve mental health and addiction treatment.
State lawmakers were aiming at a no wrong door policy when they approved the Bill back in 2016. The idea is people who need help will get it—whether they walk into a clinic or get picked up by the police. Ute Gazioch heads up substance abuse and mental health at the Department of Children and Families. She says there’s still work to improve coordination for people getting back on their feet.
“So none of these folks are talking to each other,” Gazioch says of different service providers.
“And that really leads to folks dropping out, because I’ve seen cases literally where I’ve seen a person have so many different plans and so many different things that they have to do that I thought to myself—I could never do this.”
Gazioch explains people in treatment often pass through other systems like criminal justice, child welfare and employment or housing assistance. She wants to make sure those providers are sharing information so they don’t duplicate efforts.
To help with coordination, lawmakers lined up grant funding for Florida’s substance abuse and mental health providers. At Hillsborough County’s Gracepoint 15 percent of patients use about half of the company’s services, but CEO Joe Rutherford says they haven’t invested grant money in more beds.
“If we add another lane of traffic, if we add more capacity, it’s going to be a temporary fix,” Rutherford says. “After a while those lanes are going to be full, and then you’ll be talking about adding another or transit or other solutions. What we decided to do was and my goal was—we need to develop a plan where we can take cars off the road.”
Rutherford explains they’ve launched two new outpatient programs to keep people from relapsing, and another to help connect patients under their care with services before they leave.
So far, the company says 44 percent of the patients they’ve discharged haven’t been readmitted. Another 14 percent have only been readmitted once.