Palm Beach County Mayor Melissa McKinlay had some harsh criticism for Scott and his administration’s health-care policies this week, but not of all them were founded.
In a media call Tuesday that also included Democratic Congresswoman Lois Frankel and Democratic state Sen. Audrey Gibson, McKinlay said the Scott administration denied people access to health care when it refused to expand Medicaid and that Medicaid could have helped play a role in the state’s response to the opioid crisis.
Both of which are true.
She also ripped into Scott for an administration proposal that redirected $3.1 million to help fund a homeless program that assisted more than 13,000 people last year.
Why the criticism? The money, she said, was being diverted from providing mental-health services, which are underfunded, to providing homeless services.
“They basically robbed Peter to pay Paul,” said McKinlay, a former staffer for U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who Scott hopes to defeat in November. “People who need mental-health care like that generally need places to live.”
She added that the governor should have ponied up new funding, instead of taking money from mental-health services.
McKinlay, who was re-elected to Palm Beach County Commission for a four-year term this summer when she was unopposed, has made curbing the state’s opioid epidemic one of her top priorities. She was one of the first public officials in the state to lobby Scott to declare an opioid crisis.
But it turns out the money McKinlay claims was being spent on mental- health services wasn’t. It was directed to pay for debt service on the South Florida State Hospital.
The current year budget included $3.18 million for what’s called a “certificate of participation” for the South Florida State Hospital. The obligation ended June 30, yet the $3.18 million was erroneously included in the new budget, which took effect July 1.
Members of the Joint Legislative Budget Commission on July 19 agreed to transfer the debt-service money and spend it on the homeless program.
The money was necessary because although the current year budget authorizes the Department of Children and Families to spend as much as $4.1 million for “challenge grants” for local homeless agencies, lawmakers never appropriated the necessary funding.