November, 2007

FMHI Contributes to Florida Supreme Court Report: Transforming Florida's Mental Health System

A strong FMHI presence was seen in Tallahassee at the November 14th “Mental Health Summit,” convened by the Florida Supreme Court’s Mental Health Subcommittee of the Steering Committee on Families and Children in the Courts. The Subcommittee is Chaired by Miami-Dade County Judge Steven Leifman. Four members of FMHI's Department of Mental Health Law and Policy – Robert Constantine, Mark Engelhardt, John Petrila, and Jim Winarski – have participated in ongoing Subcommittee meetings this past year. Constantine, Engelhardt and Petrila also participated in the summit, as well as FMHI’s Dean, Junius Gonzales.  

Robert Constantine and John Petrila presented findings from separate Subcommittee workgroups at the summit. Governor Charlie Crist joined Chief Justice R. Fred Lewis and other officials at the summit in releasing a 170-page report that was prepared by the Subcommittee. Florida’s Subcommittee activities have been funded in part by the Council of State Government’s Justice Center in New York.  Florida was one of only seven states selected to receive a grant by the Justice Center to help address the national crisis in managing offenders who have mental disorders.  

The Florida Supreme Court report, "Transforming Florida's Mental Health System" (link to key points, executive summary, and 170-page full report), finds that the needs of persons who have mental disorders are not currently met by Florida's social services systems, courts, jails and prisons. It describes disparities in the state’s coordination of services for persons in the justice system who have mental disorders, and recommends several strategies to improve Florida's response to this crisis (e.g., diverting funds to intensive community-based mental health care, accessing Medicaid dollars). As indicated by Chief Judge Lewis, “None of the substance of this report can be implemented by any single branch of state government. We need all three branches involved, and I am so proud to see how well the leadership has responded.”

“Hopefully, the results of the Florida Supreme Court’s Subcommittee and recent report will be translated to specific programmatic enhancements through action taken by the Florida Legislature during next year’s session,” said Dr. Roger Peters, Chair of the Department of Mental Health Law and  Policy. 

FMHI has emerged as a national leader in behavioral health research. The Institute houses several state and national research and training centers focused on improving practices in treating mental, addictive, and developmental disorders.