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Crisis-Unit Funding Fight Today

A dramatic restructuring of the way Florida pays for crisis care in mental health -- one that pits hospitals against crisis stabilization units -- comes to a head today.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has scheduled a five-hour meeting Thursday beginning at 1 p.m. to handle two dozen matters, including SB 1726.  It would shift some of the money that now goes to the crisis units, called CSUs, to hospitals that are so-called "Baker Act receiving facilities" because they take in patients who qualify for involuntary treatment under a state law commonly called the Baker Act.

This week, advocates for free-standing non-profit crisis centers have been sounding an alarm over SB 1726, saying it would badly crippled an already thinly funded system for those who are temporarily a danger to themselves or others.

As Health News Florida reported on Tuesday, mental-health advocates predict the bill would force some crisis units to close. "We call it the 'Nightmare of the Senate'," said Maggie Labarta, clinical psychologist and CEO of Meridian Behavioral Health Care in Gainesville.

But Sen. Joe Negron, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, says the clinic supporters are overstating the danger. As the Orlando Sentinel reports, Negron says hospitals treat some of the patients in crisis and they deserve some of the money.

The bill was introduced only recently, March 27, and has moved fast.


Carol Gentry, founder and special correspondent of Health News Florida, has four decades of experience covering health finance and policy, with an emphasis on consumer education and protection.
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