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County needs to give direction on mental health
Citrus County Chronicle - 5/22/2018
THE ISSUE: Mental health in Citrus County.
OUR OPINION: County must show leadership.
The delivery of mental-
health services in Citrus County has not been good.
We have a very limited supply of private providers and more than half of our residents don't have insurance or the resources to pay.
The public agency that has a contract to provide services - The Centers - has suffered from financial disarray in recent years and has been forced to lay off employees and reduce services.
The Citrus County Commission will meet today and most likely make a decision on what the future should look like as it relates to mental-health services.
The county has a role because it provides about $500,000 in local tax dollars as a match to the state that funds The Centers. Commissioners will be asked to withdraw that financial support and direct that a new provider be contracted with.
There has been much discussion in the community over the last six months about mental health and what should be done. The focus has been on a Baker Act facility, which is used to temporarily house patients facing a crisis. Citrus County has no such facility and currently Baker Act patients are transported by sheriff deputies to Ocala or Brooksville.
Citrus needs a Baker Act facility, but that only scratches the surface of what's not being done in our community.
Our aging population creates unique mental-health dilemmas involving Alzheimer's and memory loss. The opioid epidemic that is sweeping the nation is creating a separate mental-health crisis in Citrus County for a different demographic.
Children in our school population have crises of their own and every week children are whisked away to an out-of-county Baker Act facility for intervention.
The result is that a staggering number of people experience mental health crises while The Centers works to reduce services and balance its budget.
In defense of The Centers, the agency has a new leadership team that inherited an organization that spent millions of dollars it did not have and failed to do the proper paperwork to maintain its grant funding.
The new leadership team has just now balanced its budget- through layoffs and service cutbacks - and is now at least stable. But Citrus County is in the middle of a mental-health crisis and no one is taking the lead in developing strategies and seeking funding to deal with the problem.
The Centers is a Marion County-based organization with a branch campus in Lecanto. The leadership team has its hands full.
And we are not naïve; there is no easy answer to mental-health issues facing Citrus County residents. But we do know that it takes more - not less - to deal with the issues.
Our county commissioners are never happy when they have an issue like this land in their lap. There is no easy solution. But continuing to do what we are doing now makes little sense.
Citrus County needs a plan to deal with the mental health crisis we are facing and we need the funding and commitment to go along with that.