MANATEE -- An addiction and mental health treatment center in Manatee County will receive $1.34 million from the state budget to increase addiction services and train additional psychiatrists, a profession in shortage in most Florida counties.
Centerstone Florida, the main detoxification center in Manatee County, also offers residential and outpatient treatment for addicts. As the opioid and heroin epidemic has hit Manatee and Sarasota, its services have been in constant demand, with beds constantly filled and many more addicts seeking low-cost treatment with nowhere to go.
Mary Ruiz, CEO of Cen
terstone Florida, said she's very grateful to Gov. Rick Scott for the funding, which he did not include on his announced veto list Tuesday. That means the funding is all but finalized and should go to Centerstone in July.
The funding comes in two parts: $840,000 in recurring funding for a family intervention program meant to treat addiction problems specific to parents so they can get clean and be reunited with their children; and $500,000 in nonrecurring funding for a psychiatry residency program.
Ruiz said the psychiatry residency program, which pays residents $45,000 per year, was Centerstone's way of trying to address the psychiatrist shortage in Florida. There are 17 Florida counties without a single licensed psychiatrist and six counties with only one, she said.
"Psychiatrists bring medication therapy," she said. "So without them, it's like going to your diabetic doctor and you can't get insulin. Medication is an important treatment tool."
Psychiatrists need four years of residency training, and can provide services under supervision in their third and fourth years, Ruiz said. So, in addition to providing training to future psychiatrists who will hopefully remain in Florida, Ruiz said it will also mean more resources for Manatee residents.
Centerstone now has six psychiatry residents and will be able to bring in three more with the additional funding. Unlike many psychiatry residency programs, Centerstone trains them in medication-assisted treatment and other ways to help addicts.
"We really emphasize addictions training for our psychiatrists, because we know they'll encounter it," Ruiz said. "That's not necessarily true everywhere."
Due to addiction problems in the area, officials have been grappling with what Ruiz calls a historic problem: The amount of children sheltered in Manatee County, particularly from parents abusing substances, has skyrocketed.
"We're dealing with caseloads that are triple month by month what they were three years ago," Ruiz said.
Child protective services removed 82 children from their parents' care in January and February. There were nearly 600 children sheltered in Manatee in 2015, and half were due to substance abuse. There were 387 children sheltered in 2014 and 179 in 2013.
A new family intervention program will deal with problems associated with addiction from a parent perspective, with a goal of reuniting parents with their children once they've reached a stable point and can handle their addictions. Centerstone will take recommendations from child protective services to accommodate 80 families per year.
"There are special stressors to parents that could make them use again," Ruiz said. "This focuses on factors that could destablize this family."
Ruiz said the funding allows them to provide the program at low cost for those who wouldn't be able to afford it otherwise, which is a common problem among addicts who generally don't have stable jobs or good health insurance.
"This is a historic problem that is not going away," Ruiz said.
Kate Irby, Herald online/political reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7055. You can follow her on Twitter @KateIrby