Day 58

imageWe had a scheduled day off yesterday in Tallahassee and it was a good thing… it rained all day. So we booked ourselves into a downtown hotel and used the time to dry out our clothes, shoes and tents. When we woke up this morning the front had mostly passed, still a bit misty and much cooler. Definitely the coolest riding we’ve done on the tour was today. Word is tomorrow will be colder. This South Florida boy doesn’t do well in the cold!

We had a beautiful ride though, in spite of the cooler weather. Gorgeous rolling countryside in north Florida. More hills than we’ve seen in a while but short and easy to climb. After 75 miles we came to Suwannee River State Park and pulled in there to camp. Beautiful place… wish I took some pictures but spent most of my photo energies on making the video for Veterans Day that we just posted… hope you like it.

One thing we did, or tried to do, while we were in Tallahassee was see my State Representative or Senator to let her know who we are, what we’re doing and what we’d like them to do. Unfortunately, neither was to be found (or staff) in Tallahassee.  In researching the “what we’d like them to do” part I called on my good friend, Robin Cole, President of NAMI-Miami to ask what she would ask. Robin sent me a fantastic letter that very clearly explains what I hope each of you ask your representative. I’ll copy the letter in it’s entirety below and if you are so inspired, I hope you copy and paste it in your own letterhead and send it off to your representative. It can only help! (note: I slightly changed only the first sentence but otherwise all credit for writing this goes to Robin)

Dear Representative,

I’m a constituent in your district and a person who is deeply interested in seeing positive reforms in our dysfunctional mental health system. Attached are ideas I’ve learned about that presents fresh alternatives to the current system that relies on the criminal justice system, homeless shelters, Baker Act facilities and hospital emergency rooms to serve as the gateway to our mental health system. The proposed programs focus on the typical path people with mental illness now follow from first onset to full blown crisis, and how strategically placed interventions could substantially reduce the need to call on law enforcement to intervene, or to use the Baker Act to get people into treatment. The programs cited below are documented “best practices” used in communities, counties and states throughout the country, including programs already in place in Florida.

We believe that a true transformation of the Mental Health Care system, from a crisis reactive system of care to a RECOVERY oriented system of care is the most beneficial to those affected by a mental illness and their families. This transformation will prove to be cost effective for the state, as it will eliminate the need for many millions of dollars spent on crisis hospitalizations and arrests, incarceration and diversion of people with mental illness.

In determining what the policies and programs of transformation should include, we strongly suggest that consumers and family members are included. Decisions about additions and/or changes to mental health programming must include those with a lived experience of the system as it exists, with a knowledge of what is not working well and what works best. We are NOT interested in “tweaking” the system as is, or only to send more funds to providers to add more beds in CSUs. More beds without strong community outpatient follow up care will not decrease high utilization of those beds. We are interested in recovery programs to treat illnesses that are highly recoverable if the programs were only in place and accessible.

At this pivotal point in attention to our dysfunctional mental health system, we ask that you consider forming a task force or work group charged with exploring the type of progressive, evidence based, positive outcome producing programs included in the attachment. This group would then recommend how programs like these could be implemented throughout the state to meet the varying needs of each region. The group should include active consumer and family representatives, as they have the lived experience of mental illness and the process of recovery. It would be ideal if the Department of Children and Families or State was able to establish a separate fund that would be available to the Managing Entities to support innovative programs focused specifically on interrupting the path to crisis through prevention, early intervention, and effective treatment and supports in their own regions. This fund should NOT replace funds available for current programs and services, as these are already underfunded by the State of Florida.

Now is the time to bring early interventions and preventive practices to the State of Florida. Consumers and family members are demanding it. We ask, why must we wait for hospitalization, homelessness or incarceration before individuals receive the treatment and interventions they need to recover from a mental health crisis? We need transformation now.

Sincerely,

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