Florida’s Provision of Mental Health Services Ranks 49th Out of 50 States.

February 16, 2016

Florida’s provision of mental health services as measured by spending ranks 49th of the 50 states. Florida also has the third highest percentage of mentally ill and uninsured people in the country. Mental health is fundamental for children and families to reach their full potential and become productive members of society. Unmet mental health needs expose the state to tremendous economic and social costs.

By: Esubalew Dadi

Florida’s provision of mental health services as measured by per-capita expenditures ranks 49th in the nation. In 2012, Florida spent just $37.28 per person annually on these services, less than one-third of the US average of $125[1] despite the following facts:

  • It is estimated that there are 784,558 adults with serious mental illnesses, 330,989 children with serious emotional disturbances and more than 1.4 million children and adults who have evidenced some level of psychological distress.[2],
  • Research indicates that one in two Floridians will experience mental illness in their life time.[3] Further, the portion of the state’s uninsured population with any mental illness is also the third largest in the nation and above the national average.

The chart below shows mental health service provision as measured by per capita expenditures for Florida based on 2012 figures. In fiscal year 2012 the state of Maine lead the nation with per capita mental health services spending of $338. In the same year, Florida’s per capita mental health services spending was $37.28, leading only the state of Idaho at $32.54 and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico at $23.33. Florida also provided services at well below the national average of $124.99.

Per capita expenditure in FL on mental Health

Data Source: Total SMHA-Controlled Expenditures for Mental Health Services [5]

Given Florida’s low level of support for mental health services, it is critical that the state take further action to help build its mental health systems.[6] This is particularly important in the state’s growing economy where the physical and mental health of its residents is crucial for a productive and sustainable participation in the labor force.

Medicaid can play a pivotal role in underwriting vital services and supports for low-income individuals with serious mental illnesses.[7] It is the single largest source of funding for public mental health services in the country and underwrites the costs of health care, primarily for low-income persons and individuals with disabilities, including adults with severe mental illnesses in community treatment services.[8] Further, Medicaid has offered a broader array of mental health services than is available through other kinds of coverage, including crisis response, prescription medication, psychosocial rehabilitation and a range of recovery support.[9]

Even though Florida provides mental health services to its low income families under its current Medicaid program, the expansion of Medicaid in the state would enhance access to care and help meet the chronic mental health needs of poor and low income families who do not qualify under current eligibility requirements. Using expanded Medicaid funding, the state could also increase its mental health services without significantly increasing state expenditure.[10] Because the federal government covers at least 90 percent of the Medicaid expansion funding, the state could ensure access to quality and affordable mental health services to its residents.

Serious mental illness can trap individuals in a lifetime of poverty, dependency and homelessness.[11] Untreated mental illness has significant fiscal consequences for state and local governments and exacts a high toll on the nation’s economy.[12] It can also lead to costly and frequent hospitalization, institutionalization, and recurrent involvement in the criminal justice system.[13]


Good mental health is vital for the overall health and well-being of families and children. It is fundamental for children and families to reach their full potential. It enhances families’ work productivity and thereby advances their income and economic mobility. Healthy families can better contribute to the economic and social development of their communities. By tapping into federal Medicad expansion funding, the state can expand the reach of mental health services to the more than half a million uninsured Floridians who have serious mental health problem. It can also serve over 1.1 million Florida children and families with serious mental illness.

The state should redouble its effort to enhance both the access to and the quality of mental health services for its residents. By doing so, Florida not only improves the health and well-being of the mentally ill, but it also breaks the cycle of poverty, homelessness and incarceration associated with mental illness. However, left unaddressed, mental illness exposes the state to tremendous economic and social costs.


[1] National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors Inc.(NASMHPD)-(NRI). 2012. Total SMHA-Controlled Expenditures for Mental Health Services.” State Mental Health Agency Data Search. ZRI.

[2] The Department of Children and Families.2013.Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Plan: 2014-2016. (PP.17)See at

[3] Ibid

[4]Mental Health America. 2015. Partiy or Disparity: The State of Mental Health in America, 2015. See at (p. 27)

[5] Ibid

[6] National Alliance on Mental Illness. 2014. State Mental Health Legislation 2014, Trends, Themes and Effective Practices. See at

[7] Smith, Gary and et al.2005. Using Medicaid to Support Working Age Adults With Serious Mental Illnesses in the Community: A handbook. See at

[8] Ibid

[9] Ibid

[10] National Alliance on Mental Illness. 2011.State Mental Health Cuts: The Continuning Crisis. A Report by the National Alliance on Mental Illness. See at

[11] See at supra note at 7, pp 1

[12] Ibid

[13] Ibid

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