Gov. DeSantis vetoes funding for Miami-Dade gun violence prevention, mental health programming

He approved spending $1.6M on those efforts last year.

South Florida programming focused on counteracting rising firearm homicides in the area with mental health and community services will have none of the funding it sought this year from the state.

Lawmakers approved a $990,000 earmark during this year’s budget conference for a gun violence prevention initiative by the Miami-Dade County Community Action and Human Services Department.

The agency would have provided the state funds and a matching apportionment from the county to the philanthropic Miami Foundation, which in turn would divide the money between community, faith-based and grassroots groups that serve the public.

Funding requests from Sen. Alexis Calatayud and Rep. Vicki Lopez, both Miami Republicans, said the funds would cover “individual, family and group mental health and wellness services, counseling and treatment,” and “wraparound services to support reintegration and household stabilization.”

“The target population,” Calatayud’s requests said, “includes persons with poor mental health, at-risk youth, currently or formerly incarcerated persons, drug offenders (in criminal justice), victims of crime, and individuals residing in communities disproportionately impacted by gun violence.”

Of note, Gov. Ron DeSantis approved spending $1.6 million on those efforts last year. That was evidently enough for the Governor, who nixed the new funding plan Wednesday alongside nearly $1 billion worth of other projects. He approved $116.5 billion in spending for Fiscal Year 2024-25.

While gun violence nationwide is declining, with U.S. firearm homicides down more than 13% since 2023 and nearly 16.5% since 2021, that trend doesn’t exactly apply to Miami-Dade, which consistently has the most gun deaths of any county in the state, according to the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress.

Between New Year’s Day and April 30, gun violence victimization rose 0.7% in the city of Miami compared to last year. Countywide, gun deaths declined in 2022, the most recent year from which state data is publicly available.

In 2020, gun killings reached a 21-year high, with 204 lethal shootings.

Miami-Dade has spent a lot to curb the issue. That includes a $8.8 million partnership with the Carrie Meek Foundation County Commissioners approved in 2022 to strengthen preventative efforts. Commissioner Kionne McGhee, who was automatically re-elected Tuesday after no one filed to run against him, sponsored the authorizing resolution.

The inclusion of $2.5 million specifically for community violence intervention in Florida’s budget won praise from Giffords Florida, the Sunshine State arm of former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords’ national organization.

Giffords Florida State Director Samantha Barrios called it a “big win and a result of years of advocacy and education.”

“But this is only a start,” she continued. “We must continue funding community violence programs that use homegrown peacemakers to stop violence, one life at a time.”

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


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