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Every day, hundreds of sick and injured patients walk into free and charitable clinics around the Tampa Bay area in need of a doctor.Many are suffering from chronic conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Some patients were referred to the clinics by staff at hospitals where they landed after years of neglecting to care for treatable conditions.The clinics allow the patients to pay what they can, or nothing at all. They are staffed by doctors and nurses who volunteer their time. They survive off donations and small grants.Many of the patients have jobs but they are living paycheck to paycheck. None have health insurance, either because they do not qualify for Medicaid or can’t afford private coverage. For these patients, the clinics are often their only option for primary care.

Could Florida Do A Better Job At Helping Veterans With Mental Health Issues?

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Credit MGN Online

Could Florida do a better job at helping veterans who have mental health issues? Some experts seem think so, like Miami-Dade County Circuit Judge Steve Leifman. He’s the chairman of the Florida Supreme Court Task Force on Substance Abuse and Mental Health Issues in the Court.

He says Florida has the fastest growing veterans’ population which now is about 1.7 million.

“12 percent of everyone over 18 years of age in Florida is a veteran,” said Leifman. “And, because of these last two very difficult conflicts, we’re looking at possibly 51,000 veterans in Florida with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or traumatic brain injury, which puts them at very high risk of criminal justice activity.”

Okaloosa County Court Judge Patt Maney is a Veterans Court judge. He says as a wounded vet in Afghanistan who suffered a traumatic brain injury, he knows firsthand what it feels like for many of the vets he sees in his courtroom. And, he adds the legislature needs to look at expanding eligibility for the court.

“We have excluded a large number of people who need our services,” said Maney. “If you get out and then get charged with marijuana, you can come into Veterans Court. But, if you’re dealing with your PTSD while still on active duty, you can’t.”

There are now 21 Veterans Courts in Florida, and Maney says more are needed.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner .

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