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Report: Florida's Mental Hospitals Still Violent, Deadly

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The staff and patients inside Florida's mental hospitals remain victims of preventable violence, according to a newspaper investigation.

The Tampa Bay Times, following up on a yearlong investigation the newspaper conducted with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in 2015, reported Sunday that the state’s mental hospitals are still violent and deadly.

The newspapers spent more than a year documenting life in Florida’s six largest mental hospitals, showing how $100 million in budget cuts had led to a doubling in violent incidents and at least 15 deaths.

After the probe, Florida Gov. Rick Scott required that the hospitals buy new security cameras and body alarms for workers. In addition, the Florida Legislature added at least $55 million to the budget for new mental health programs.

The Times reported that earlier this year, Florida State Hospital reported the following incidents over a six-month period: four patients suffered serious hip, femur and rib fractures in beatings; a patient threw bleach on a nurse who had to be rushed to the hospital; five staff members struck patients; and one ward attendant stood at a bedroom entrance, watched and did nothing while a patient punched another in the head.

In addition, an employee admitted to having an "inappropriate" relationship with a patient, and another patient escaped and robbed a credit union when he was supposed to be in fitness class.

Originally founded in December 2006 as an independent grassroots publication dedicated to coverage of health issues in Florida, Health News Florida was acquired by WUSF Public Media in September 2012.