MANATEE -- A program for severely mentally ill Manatee County residents was not included in a legislative budget released Tuesday, but Manatee Glens is still lobbying for the money to be included in the Senate budget. A program called Crisis Medical Home has been used to try to decrease the number of incarcerations and hospitalizations.
State Rep. Greg Steube, R-Bradenton, submitted a $625,000 legislative budget request for the program, but so far it has not been included.
Melissa Larkin-Skinner, Manatee Glens chief clinical officer, created the program in 2009, and Manatee Glens has implemented it for seven years, said Mary Ruiz, president and chief executive officer of Manatee County's mental health provider.
Even though Manatee Glens will continue to use
the program, financial cuts might reduce how many can be helped, Ruiz said.
"What we are going to do is ask the Senate to put it on its list of priorities," Ruiz said. "(State) Sen. (Bill) Galvano (R-Bradenton) told us he would help if he can."
The money would fund a team of six professionals, including a psychiatrist, nurse, two counselors and two case managers and provide for housing and medications for 80 patients, 40 at a time, for a year.
The team goes beyond the usual procedures to help mentally ill patients stay healthy and out of the hospital or jail, Ruiz said. Counselors are available seven days a week, 24 hours a day, Ruiz said. Services can be delivered daily in the home or community.
Severely mentally ill patients don't always take medications because they are homeless and lose them, Ruiz said. They end up in jail or in a hospital.
Once a patient is assigned, team members will help them get an apartment and even a part-time job, Ruiz said. Manatee Glens has a list of landlords willing to rent to these clients, Ruiz said.
"We guarantee the rent and, if there are problems, they call the team," Ruiz added.
A team member will also dig into other problems the patient might have.
"If they say, 'I just can't take my meds because it makes me feel drowsy and I don't feel good,' we will explain that being drowsy at night could be a good thing or we will talk to a doctor about it," Ruiz said. "The doctor might say, 'This is the dose you need right now.' Then, a team member might tell the patient, 'Do you think you can hang in there for two or three weeks until we can reduce the dose?' "
The patients can call team members if they need help.
"We designed the program for people who were frequently admitted to the crisis center," Ruiz said.
Larkin-Skinner analyzed why patients sometimes end up back in a Manatee Glens hospital bed and realized it was often because they were lonely, scared or lacked transportation to get medications.
"Really, this is the beauty of the team," Larkin-Skinner said. "In traditional services, people are assigned to a doctor or therapist. But with a team concept every team member knows what is going on with a client and can respond."
A statistic evaluation of the program compared the number of crisis events experienced by 203 seriously mentally ill adults six months before enrolling in Crisis Medical Home and six months after.
Involuntary admissions were reduced 73 percent from 322 to 88, Ruiz said. Twenty-two of 23 involved in the criminal justice system were diverted from jail, Ruiz said. The program alleviated homelessness by 91 percent, from 55 to five people, she added.
"Anything we can do to enhance the services for the mentally ill and keep them out of our jail is a good thing," Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube said Tuesday.
Manatee County Commissioner Larry Bustle said he supports the program and thinks it will cut down on costs.
"It costs a lot of money, about $70 a day, to keep someone in jail," Bustle said. "When you figure we have between 900 and 1,000 in jail at any time, that is costing taxpayers a lot of money. Around 30 percent of the people in jail have mental problems."
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.