Congressmen lobby for mental health reform
LAUDERDALE LAKES, Fla. (WSVN) -- A U.S. congressman and the daughter of a mentally ill woman who was shot and killed by police spoke out about ways to implement mental health reform in Florida, Thursday.
Sabrina Davis insisted the death of her mother, 60-year-old Linda Sue Davis, earlier this month, could have been prevented. Broward County police officers were summoned to Linda's Tamarac home Jan. 9, reportedly for the 80th time. The resident had shot and killed her neighbor and was in turn shot dead by BSO Deputy Vincent Ciacciarelli.
"My mother had a traumatic childhood [and was] at certain times abused, raped," Davis said while holding "Faces of Depression," Linda's book of poems. Davis indicated that her mother's case "wasn't an anomaly. There are several people out there who are constantly going up against law enforcement."
Davis commented that police officers engage in excessive use of the Baker Act, a state law, also known as the Florida Mental Health Act, that allows police to conduct involuntary examination of individuals they deem to be mentally ill or are otherwise a danger to themselves. "That's the only rule [Florida law enforcers] have to deal with people with mental health [issues]," Davis said.
Florida is currently ranked in 49th place when it comes to funding mental health programs, making it the second worst state in terms of fund allocation for this issue. "To be 49th in these United States, in this time and place in our history, is shameful for us, and we should be ashamed of what we're doing," said Paul Jaquith, a clinical social worker and the CEO of the Mental Health Association of Southeast Florida.
Florida congressman Ted Deutch said we cannot ignore the state's growing mental health problem. Cutbacks, for instance, have rapidly increased the number of mentally ill people begging on street corners.
President Obama's health care reform provides matching federal funds if Florida would only expand Medicaid benefits. "Florida would spend $3 million over 10 years, which is an increase in spending of just 1.8 percent," Deutch said during a press conference, "and in so doing, it would expand access to health care to over a million Floridians."
State Senator Joseph Gibbons lamented the fact that it takes events like Linda Davis' death for the government to take action. "These are situations that have happened over the last number of years, perpetrated by people who have mental health problems that may have been diagnosed and discovered [earlier]," he said. "It's critical that we move forward."
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