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Suit Alleges Florida Isolates Mental Health Patients From Society

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Florida Department of Children and Families

A disability-rights organization has filed a federal lawsuit alleging Florida improperly "warehouses" people with mental illnesses in its psychiatric institutions. Disability Rights Florida is calling for the state to be forced to provide treatment services for some mentally ill people within the patients’ communities. 

The suit could affect treatment for about 230 institutionalized people advocates say are ready for discharge but are stuck in the state’s three facilities because they have no other choice. Disability Rights Florida spokeswoman Dana Farmer says federal law mandates that non-institutional mental health treatment be more widely available.

“And this is not just Florida, this is across the nation. So while it was a good thing because we’re trying to institutionalize less people, it wasn’t such a good thing because the system was never adequately funded," she says.

Farmer says the suit also seeks to protect people who are admitted to psychiatric facilities because other treatment is not offered in their communities.