Privatization of Northeast Florida State Hospital, a state-run residential psychiatric facility near Jacksonville, is at the center of a fight brewing between Florida lawmakers, Florida's Department of Children and Families (DCF) and local residents.
A number of Florida lawmakers believe that privatizing the state hospital could save $3.3 million in the coming fiscal year, which starts July 1. But DCF has estimated that displaced employees at the facility could demand $4 million in wages if the state turned it over to a commercial entity. At the same time, DCF reports that the hospital already runs at optimum efficiency. DCF's most recent data states that care for each residential patient costs $233 a day, the lowest cost for inpatient psychiatric care in the country. The hospital has 613 beds and employs more than 1,100 people.
Area residents are also worried about the possibility of the facility being privatized by Boca Raton-based prison and psychiatric hospital outsourcer-GEO Group. Hospital employees and area businesses believe that if the state hospital were run commercially, the new management might move the facility out of the area and/or cut jobs which represent about 17 percent of the local economy.
The GEO Group, has indicated that it is interested in privatizing the facility. A group of Florida lawmakers has raised concerns about possible conflicts of interest with GEO and certain legislators and members of their senior staffs.