Drastic Downsizing at Mental Health Facility?
Just three months after being praised as a model institution for efficiency and quality of care, a state mental health facility in Gainesville may be in danger.
The North Florida Evaluation and Treatment Center has been open in Northeast Gainesville since the seventies and there's a buzz in Tallahassee that it might be in the cross-hairs of state budget cuts.
This all male maximum security facility, also known as NFETC, is the smallest institution for the criminally insane in the state and the only one in the central part of the state. The center has been praised for its cost effectiveness, but now it may lose up to half of its resources.
Longtime Social Service Counselor and local union president of the American Federation of State and County Municipality Employees Cecil Copeland said, "You can't just cut something that's doing so well."
The North Florida Evaluation and Treatment Center has 216 beds for mentally ill inmates, who have committed serious felonies. Copeland said, "We have to work with that individual, we have to do behavioral modification, we have to do treatment planning."
There are currently 148 male patients receiving treatment at the center, to either become competent to stand trial or to be safely housed elsewhere, if they are not guilty because of mental insanity. There are 420 staff members. Copeland said, "Getting people restored to competency in less time than most of the other facilities, we operate cheaper than most of the other facilities. Matter of fact for the last three years we have been lower than anybody else." Copeland says a Senate budget subcommittee is considering a plan to send more funding to community programs and from state facilities. Which could cut their budget in half, and remove 100 beds and the staff that goes along with them.
Copeland said, "We wouldn't guarantee continuity of the service that we provide, and that's what I'm concerned about. And thus, there's people gonna lose jobs and the community at large is gonna suffer."
He also says NFETC is being singled out for a massive cut because it is smaller than other facilities like Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee. But because of its performance and location, he says it just doesn't make sense. Copeland said, "We have proven over and over again that we that we do it better than the other four institutions in Florida...we have the numbers to prove that. But they want to dismantle us."
The main concern at NFETC is drastic downsizing, but another controversial topic being considered by the state is privatization. These issues will be discussed early next week in the legislative session.
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