State of Florida
Department of Children and Families
Charlie Crist
Governor

Robert A. Butterworth
Secretary


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Media Contact: Al Zimmerman
May 9, 2007 850-488-4855

Forensic Mental Health Waitlist Drops to Zero Under Leadership of
Governor Crist, Secretary Butterworth

- Children and Families beats goal of Target Zero 53 days ahead of schedule -

CLEARWATER, FLA- Department of Children and Families Secretary Bob Butterworth visited Judge Robert J. Morris' courtroom today to announce the state's success in bringing the forensic mental health treatment 15-day waitlist down from 223 individuals January 31 to zero individuals waiting over 15 days today.

"I thought it only appropriate to come back down to ground zero where this issue first started to present the news that we've seeing positive results," said Butterworth. "Governor Crist directed us to cooperate and find creative solutions to this issue and to focus on the individuals in need. Thanks to help of mental health professionals throughout the state, I can say with confidence we have done just that and now the state, judicial and criminal justice systems and the people we serve can access the resources they need."

In addition to the 15-day waitlist dropping to zero, the state has also had great success in reducing the overall number of individuals waiting for forensic mental health services. At the end January, 294 individuals committed to the state for services were awaiting treatment. Today that number has shrunk to 31 individuals waiting between zero to 15 days.

In January, the Department sought out and received $16.6 million dollars to add more treatment beds to the state's overwhelmed system. Using those dollars, 251 new treatment beds were added and an additional 49 beds are expected to be available by the end of May. In addition, the Department partnered with local representatives of the Pinellas, Orange and Broward county law enforcement and judicial systems to design diversion programs aimed at keeping the mentally ill out of jail and receiving services in their communities.

To date, the diversion efforts have been successful and the Florida Legislature appropriated an additional $4.6 million dollars this session to continue to enhance community and in-jail mental health services. In addition, leadership throughout the state eagerly await the findings of Judge Steven Leifman, of Miami, who was recently selected to conduct research into how the state's law enforcement, judicial and mental health systems can better coordinate to serve this vulnerable population.

For more information on the Department of Children and Families and mental health services in Florida, visit http://www.state.fl.us/cf_web/.


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