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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.

Protesters Shed Light On Miami's Troubled Mental Health Record

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Tami Jo Urban/Wikimedia Commons
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Miami activists have been calling for the state attorney to bring charges against two prison guards accused of torturing and killing Darren Rainey four years ago.

Mental health advocate Amy McClellan says after mental health hospitals closed in the 1950s, prisons got flooded with mentally ill inmates. She says Florida hasn’t filled the gap in care since then.

“Our state is 49th or 50th in the country in terms of per capita spending on mental health services,” McClellan said.

McClellan was at a protest in front of the state attorney’s office in Miami. It was held on the anniversary of the death of Darren Rainey, a schizophrenic inmate at Dade Correctional Institution.

Some protesters have a personal stake in the matter.

“Darren Rainey was murdered by guards at Dade CI where my son was,” said Jema Pena, who said her mentally ill son has been held in solitary confinement for 90 percent of his time in prison.

“(He’s) being tortured and abused, no medications, the state does not cover his medications.”

Similar claims have been corroborated by whistleblowers who worked at Dade Correctional.

Activists say the lack of resources and accountability will continue to fuel the pipeline to prison for mental health patients.