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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.

Mental Health Courts Curb Recidivism

A new study from the Florida Institute of Technology finds that criminal defendants who graduate from mental health court are much less likely to be re-arrested. “All the way out to three years after they’ve completed the mental health court treatment, about 40% less were re-arrested than those than those who were dismissed from the mental health court", said Dr. Julie Costopoulos, author of the study.

So, what is a mental health court? 

“It’s an alternative court that diverts defendants away from incarceration by requiring mentally ill defendants who are accepted to the court complete treatment to have their criminal adjudication withheld”, Costopoulos explained.

Dr. Costopoulos says mental health courts may provide a solution for our over-crowded jails. 

“Our results show that this is cost-effective and it protects us from new offenses as a society but also from the cost that we are carrying by incarcerating the mentally ill instead of treating them”, said Costopoulos.

The study was based on data from 118 participants in the Brevard County mental health court.

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Rick Glasby