Local Mental Health Facility on the Chopping Block? Maybe Not...
A local mental health facility might not be on the chopping block after all. The North Florida Evaluation and Treatment Center in Northeast Gainesville, was facing drastic state budget cuts at session this week.
But the reductions might not be as bad as originally feared.
North Florida Evaluation and Treatment Center (NFETC) Counselor and local American Federation of State and County Municipality Employees (AFSCME) Union President Cecil Copeland said, "You know we gonna lose something. But I'm hopeful that it's not going to be so dramatic."
Copeland says the original proposal presented to a senate budget committee would have cut NFETC's budget in half. Removing 100 beds and the staff that goes along with them. The new revised proposal suggests eliminating 275 full time employees and 82 beds for maximum security patients. Which is relatively good news.
Copeland said, "They gonna reduce our budget by 16.6 million dollars, however that's two hospitals now. That's not just one." He says Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee will now share the burden of cuts along with NFETC. The proposal also includes a one year review of all five mental health facilities in Florida, both private and public.
Copeland said, "Look like they're making it more competitive." He also says NFETC is cost effective and has the lowest recidivism rate in the state. Meaning patients get out sooner and have to come back less. Copeland said, "We are the most productive. We are the most efficient. All we want to do is prove it to everybody."
State officials will visit the campus tomorrow to review NFETC operations. Then they'll take that information back up to Tallahassee. DCF officials will also talk to staff about the details of potential reductions. Copeland says until the budget is finalized, no one is resting easy.
"We're still in a crisis here. Nothing has been etched in stone. The gavel has not hit yet. So anything could happen." There's still a long way to go before the budget is approved by the Senate and House-- and then by the Governor.
North Florida Evaluation and Treatment Center is the smallest public mental health facility in the state. It has room for 216 mentally ill male inmates. They are currently treating 136.
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