Florida will spend $16.6 million more for hundreds of new beds to treat county jail inmates with severe mental illness, says the Miami Herald. The decision, to be approved by a legislative budget commission early next month, comes as Lucy Hadi, chief of the state Department of Children & Families, was threatened with jail time and a fine after her agency failed to shift jail inmates deemed incapable of standing trial over to state psychiatric hospitals for treatment. The state has been sued by the federally funded Advocacy Center for Persons with Disabilities, which argued the state was violating the rights of jail inmates by denying them necessary psychiatric care.
State officials said the money would pay for 373 new mental health beds through June 30 to address a 308-person waiting list. Said Miami-Dade County Judge Steven Leifman, who heads the court system’s mental health committee: “This is a Band-Aid. We’re pleased the immediate crisis is being addressed. However, if they don’t do something to fix the mental health system, the state will be in the same crisis next year.” Bush, who will leave office about a week before the Legislative Budget Commission meets, said it was unfair to blame him or his agency’s chief for the troubles. Bush said the population of inmates with mental illness has increased greatly. Of the 308-person waiting list, 230 had waited longer than 15 days as of Wednesday. State law requires treatment within 15 days of a judge’s order.