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Panel Discussion Gauges Public Interest In Proposed Children's Services Council, New Tax

More than 100 people in a room, attending a panel discussion forum regarding the creation of a local Children's Services Council
Ryan Dailey

The Leon County Commission is mulling the creation of a new council and tax to provide services for children in need. A recent discussion forum intended to gauge community interest took place in front of a crowd of more than 100.

Children’s Services Councils operate in counties across the state. They’re aimed a remedying what critics of the Legislature say is a shortfall in existing funding. Wednesday’s discussion dealt not only with the question of whether a local CSC should exist – but when.

Its four panelists come from differing professional backgrounds. Joedrecka Brown Speights, interim chair of Florida State University’s Department of Family Medicine and Rural Health, was fully in support.

“There’s two particular areas I think this Children Services Council can help us with. That’s related to an area of interest of mine related to infant mortality, and then adverse Childhood Events – ACEs,” Brown Speights said.

Tom Derzypolski, president of marketing firm BowStern, wants the CSC to be on a ballot for voters – just not yet.

“I would propose that we examine this carefully, and – hold your seat – that we put it on the ballot in 2020,” Derzypolski said. “When I talk to people that are opposed to … a new tax, it’s a very reasonable request they have. They want to understand it more.”

Attorney Jon Moyle chairs the CSC steering committee. He wants to move faster, putting the option on the November ballot. The proposed tax would add a half mill to Leon’s property tax and has been estimated at generating $8 million annually.

“I would advocate that we do it sooner rather than later for a number of reasons,” Moyle said. “The statistics now that we have with respect to juvenile crime, I think, warrant immediate attention.”

Jane Johnson, a director of advocacy for the Florida Council for Community Mental Health, was the lone dissenting voice among the panelists.

“If we don’t think that we’re getting our value for the dollar, I think that a Children’s Service Council is not the solution, but maybe sitting down with those managed healthcare plans and finding out why,” Johnson said. “And asking – do we have enough doctors? Are doctors willing to participate? Do we have therapists?”

Johnson says as it stands in the area, Medicaid managed care plans receive about $190 million dollars per year in federal money to provide children’s health and mental health services.

The Leon County Commission will hold a public hearing on the CSC June 19.

Ryan Dailey is a reporter/producer for WFSU/Florida Public Radio. After graduating from Florida State University, Ryan went into print journalism working for the Tallahassee Democrat for five years. At the Democrat, he worked as a copy editor, general assignment and K-12 education reporter.