Budget update: Mental health and substance abuse cuts could create a ‘forensics crisis,’ DCF chief saysby Dara Kam | April 26th, 2010
House and Senate budget chiefs are closing in on a final budget, with lawmakers backing off a plan to cut state workers’ salaries and agreeing to a ban on funding for human stem cell research.
For the first time, lawmakers and other high-ranking state workers would have to pay a nominal fee for their health insurance, from $100 a year.
Meanwhile, state workers’ prescription drug costs and co-payments would go up under the Senate proposal.
“It’s a lean year, without a doubt,” Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, said.
Still on the table: an $11 million decrease in the Healthy Families program that provides in-home services to prevent child abuse. That reduction could threaten a five-year, $1.5 billion federal grant for the program, said Department of Children and Families Secretary George Sheldon.
Also disturbing to Sheldon is about $18 million in cuts to mental health and substance abuse services for adults, which he said could end up costing the state more in other areas.
“I think it’s a direct pipeline into the county jails” and to the state hospitals, which also got an $8 million cut, said Sheldon.
“We could have another forensic crisis,” he said.
Sheldon said he spoke with federal officials and asked if the $11 million cut to Healthy Families – which Florida spent about $28 million the program last year – would hurt the state’s chances for grant funding in the future.
“The answer’s kind of obvious,” Sheldon said.
Bookworms, have cheer.
Although Alexander and House counterpart David Rivera agreed to a $10 million cut to state aid to public libraries, word is the library funding is still on life support.
Senate President Jeff Atwater apparently isn’t keen on cutting the libraries’ $21.2 million appropriation, which draws down the maximum in federal matching dollars.
Watch for the libraries to get fully funded before the budget goes to lawmakers’ desks sometime tomorrow – if they’re to go home on time on Friday.