Funding for the Bay City Wellness Center, a drug rehab facility envisioned by Sheriff A.J. Smith, got a first hearing Monday by the Florida House justice appropriations committee, and the result was good.
Following remarks by Smith, the committee moved both House Bill #9127, and House Bill #3049, both sponsored by Rep. Jason Shoaf, forward by a 9-0 vote. They now move to the full appropriations committee.
House Bill #9127 calls for a one-time $1 million appropriation, that would go towards rejuvenating the site of the former Bay City Work Camp, which has been vacant, used largely for storage, since the state closed it in July 2013.
HB #3049 would provide a one-time infusion of $350,000 in operational funding for the Bay City Wellness Center.
The bills’ analyses describes the facility as intended for residential treatment for addiction; mental health counseling; group and individual therapy; case management; and community integration. It says it will serve people with poor mental health, homeless, drug offenders, and both current and formerly incarcerated drug users.
Jefferson County Sheriff Albert "Mac" McNeill, Jr. and Calhoun County Sheriff Glenn Kimbrel wrote letters of support, and more are expected to be forthcoming.
An analysis of the bill says that it will improve mental health by providing residential in-house group and individual therapy. It goes on to say a case review will be done showing diagnosis and treatment received, with all outcome measures in conformance with Apalachee Center standards.
The bill’s values, reads the analysis, is to protect the general public from harm (environmental, criminal, etc.), will participants discharged to a stable housing environment. "The program will test whether costs of incarceration, length of incarceration and recidivism can be lowered; and safety increased in a cost-effective way," it reads.
The analysis says the intent is to reduce recidivism, by providing post-release wraparound services to those who are released from custody. A case review will be done to show changes in arrest data.
The analysis says the funding has the potential to reduce substance abuse by enabling participants to complete a substance abuse treatment program. A case review would be done to show completion with no failed drug tests.
Also, the analysis indicates such a facility can divert individuals from the criminal and juvenile justice system by addressing those with a history of involvement with the criminal justice system. It promises a case review to track outcomes, and examine criminal backgrounds to show the effect of diversion.