Mental Health- Your Voice Needed

Tomorrow, March 23, 2021, the Board of Sarasota County Commissioners are voting to (or to not) create a mental health taxing district.  If it is approved by the Commissioners, property tax would be imposed to provide funding for (very much needed) mental health services.

Last year, Commissioner Mike Moran got this conversations going, but (shocker) Covid-19 delayed it. Now that we are seeing an increasingly increased need for mental health support, the time has come to revisit it.

If you are in support of this, you should send an email to the County Commissioners telling them so – right now. While I cannot tell you what to write, I can offer some options:

Write that you are in support of a mental health taxing district because:

It’s fiscally sound. Sarasota spends $68 million every year in untreated mental illness. “The primary drivers of the cost are suicide, criminal justice, education and worker productivity.”

A small investment makes a big difference. “One-tenth of one mill of levy by Sarasota County would generate $4 million for this work. For the owner of a $350,000 home, that is $35 per year.”

You believe in the economic principle of supply and demand…and supply is not meeting demand. “Only half of children with a mental health condition under age 15 (in Sarasota) received mental health services in the previous year”.

You’re a person who wants to set future generations up for success. Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) could potentially reduce a large number of health conditions. For example, up to 1.9 million cases of heart disease and 21 million cases of depression could have been potentially avoided by preventing ACEs. The list goes on. If you are going to learn about anything – learn about ACEs.

This approach works. The current 1-Mill Education Referendum “raises $55.6 million per year, 13 percent of the overall budget for Sarasota County Schools”. And there is already community support for this initiative. Last year, the county “sent out a survey to residents and stakeholders to gauge their opinion of a mental health district. Of the 1,663 respondents, 67% said they knew someone in need of mental health services. Around 78% of respondents said they’d support a degree of tax increase, ranging from $50 to $200 annually.”

We severely lack in funding. Florida is at the bottom in behavioral health funding. We also rank 48 in access to services…which makes sense. The problem is – we need both funding and access more than ever.

We need mental health services more than ever. I don’t even have to cite what Covid-19 has required of us, or how it’s left us. Our mental health system – and the youth, families, and people it can help – have needed this for a long time.

Please send a friendly, non-partisan email the County Commissioners in support of creating a mental health taxing district now. They meet at 1:30pm on March 23, 2021.



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