The ceremonial digging

The ceremonial digging of the dirt on Friday at the Miami Center for Mental Health and Recovery, signifies the construction phase of the project is about to begin. 

Miami-Dade County has more than 2,400 people incarcerated who need psychiatric assistance. Overall, Florida is toward the bottom of the list of states when it comes to spending money for mental health. Without care while locked up, the probability goes up that when ex-offenders are released, their untreated mental problems will lead to crime and homelessness. The political, judicial and health community leaders in the county and state have joined together to mitigate this problem.

For the past 15 years, community leaders have been involved in the creation of the Miami Center for Mental Health and Recovery. On May 31, the end of mental health awareness month, they broke ground at the site for the new center. Construction is set to begin on June 6.

The idea for the Miami Center for Mental Health and Recovery came from the court system. Judge Steven Leifman spearheaded this project to help divert people who require such attention from jail to a more-appropriate, nurturing setting.

The Miami Center for Mental Health and Recovery will treat “individuals whose mental illnesses go untreated and so extremely acute that they continue to the deep end of our most expensive and less effective systems of care again and again,” Judge Leifman puts it.

How these people will get recommended to this facility, is still “in the works,”Circuit Judge Nushin G. Sayfie said.

The first of its kind, Miami Center for Mental Health and Recovery will be located at 2200 NW Seventh Ave., near Overtown. The county will use general obligation bond money and get support from Jackson Health System for the construction.

The center will have 208 beds for patients struggling with mental health and substance abuse problems. For those who need help staying true to their recovery intentions, there will be employment and vocational training to prepare patients for discharge. The goal of this effort is to prevent criminal offenses in the first place by those suffering from mental health challenges and serve as a help center for those without the insurance to get hospitalized.

"Some patients will have insurance or disability benefits. But there will be some charitable donations that help funding. Probably grants will be applied for," said Sayfie in an e-mail. "And finally, if the person is in the criminal justice system than the County or the State may be responsible."

State support for the center was expressed that afternoon. Miami-Dade County will be renting the Miami Center for Mental Health and Recovery from the state of Florida for only $1 a year.

“Thank you … for the opportunity to be a part of this. It is truly a special day,” Lt. Gov. Jeannette Nunez said. Nunez came to represent the governor, who was on a trade mission to Israel at the time.

Miami-Dade County Chairwoman Commissioner Audrey Edmonson revealed that the county has the largest number of people who qualify for mental health assistance. The University of South Florida was commissioned to study this population of 2,400 people who need psychiatric attention and they identified 97 individuals most at risk in this cycle of jail. Out of those, 97 they were predominantly homeless men with schizophrenic disorders. This institution would help get homeless people off the street and into psychiatric and career help.

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