Rush for mental health pacts leads to clashes in Florida

A big rush to privatize Florida's mental healthcare and substance abuse services has led to confrontations as to how the largesse should be divided, reports Health News Florida.

The state has laid off hundreds of employees at the Department of Children and Families, putting more pressure on private players--known as "managing entities"--to take over. And while the state wanted the privatization to be completed by 2013, it now wants it finished by the end of this year.

"They can't monitor these existing contracts anymore, so they need these managing entities as fast as they can get them," said Bob Sharpe, CEO of the Florida Council for Community Mental Health.

However, only three such entities statewide are currently operating, covering the Tampa, Miami, and panhandle regions. And those entities that wish to compete for the remaining business had their application deadlines moved up by months. Services in major metropolitan areas, such as Broward County, which covers Fort Lauderdale, are being folded into Miami's Dade County to speed up the process.

Florida already ranks 49th in the country in terms of expenditures on mental health and substance abuse programs.

For more:
- read the Health News Florida article
- read the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting blog post