Protests to Florida State Cuts in Mental Health, Addiction Services

BRADENTON – As a former crack addict, Sabra Schmidt understands more than most how her work administering medication to recovering addicts makes a difference.

“I know the treatment works,” Schmidt said. “We really help a lot of people.”

But Schmidt fears many addicts will not get the help they need if proposed funding cuts to mental health and addiction services are enacted by state lawmakers this year.

Schmidt joined about 200 other mental health and addiction case workers and advocates as they chanted “No more cuts” in a protest held in downtown Bradenton Monday.

The protestors, who included mental health counselors and families of those receiving help, walked from the Manatee Glens agency on 6th Avenue West to downtown Bradenton, where they lined both sides of Manatee Avenue West.

They held signs protesting the cuts with slogans such as “Help us Senator Bennett,” a reference to state Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton. Many passing drivers honked their car horns in support.

A budget proposal in the Florida Senate would cut funding for addiction treatment by almost $40 million, and reduce funding for adult mental health treatment by almost $85 million. That equates to an overall cut in funding of 32 percent that would drastically reduce the services agencies could offer, affecting 3,500 patients in Manatee County alone, said Manatee Glens President Mary Ruiz. The budget proposed by the State House has less severe cuts.

Ruiz said cutting funding would leave many patients without help, forcing hospitals and law enforcement agencies to deal with addicts and mentally ill people when treatment is a preferred consequence.

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