NEXT TO LAST: Florida ranks 49th in funding for mental health, experts say

Published: Monday, February 17, 2014 at 02:20 PM.

CRESTVIEW — The April 11 Suite 100 Charity Golf Classic is more than a chance to play Shalimar Pointe's links. Fundraisers are an integral part of providing county residents with mental health services.

Florida ranks next to last among the 50 states in funding for mental health services, First Judicial Circuit Court Judge Terrance Ketchel and Ginny Barr, the Mental Health Association of Okaloosa and Walton Counties' executive director, said.

It would take an additional $500 million allocation a year just to advance to 48th place, Ketchel said.Fifty percent of his court's caseload is family law matters, many of which focus on mental health, he said.

Barr, speaking with Ketchel during the Feb. 12 combined meeting of the Crestview Area Chamber of Commerce Government Issues and Health and Wellness committees, described mental health as "feeling good about yourself, feeling good about others (and) feeling good about life."

However, shortage of funding makes the Mental Health Association depend on fundraisers such as the April golf tournament, she said.

The association receives "thousands of calls" each year for information and assistance, but the number of inpatient mental health beds is at about the same level as during the Civil War, Barr said.

"As treatment moved from inpatient to outpatient alternatives, funding, expected to move with the patients, did not," Barr said.

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