Speaking before a crowd of mental health and substance abuse treatment professionals, Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Latvala promised more money for their causes and lashed out at Speaker Richard Corcoran and House Republicans for neglecting them.

Latvala, the Republican state Senator from Clearwater who chairs the Appropriations Committee, said Florida has neglected mental health and substance abuse funding because the House is too interested in cutting taxes to consider funding necessary services.

Speaking to the Florida Behavioral Health Conference at Walt Disney World, Latvala vowed he’d do a better job of getting money for those programs.

“Since 2000 we’ve cut $2.7 billion in recurring taxes. That’s $2.7 billion more each year that could be spent on mental health, substance abuse, education, environment, all of the things that we have to provide as a state for our citizens,” Latvala said.

“This area that you work in has not been properly death with, has been actually neglected,” he added.

At one point Latvala recognized Republican state Rep. Jason Brodeur of Sanford, the chairman of the House Health Care Appropriations Committee, and said the lack of funding for mental health and substance abuse programs was not Brodeur’s fault, but his boss’s. And then he ripped into Corcoran, who may announce a campaign to run for governor himself.

For now, Latvala’s rival for the Republican gubernatorial nomination is Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

“Richard Corcoran, what he knows about real-life problems like you deal with every day, he reads in a book. He also reads in that same book, the Koch brothers’ manifesto, about how you first cut taxes, and how people should help themselves, and the government should not people,” Latvala said.

Latvala accepted some of the blame for limited funding for mental health and substance abuse programs, confessing he was new at appropriations and “maybe we dropped the ball a little” in dealing with the House budget proposals this year. But he said it would not happen again.

“I will guarantee you Senate support for any budget amendment that calls for increases in substance abuse funding,” he said, drawing thunderous applause.

He then spoke of the heroin and opioid epidemic and said “This is not satisfactory to have 20 or so Floridians dying every day from opioid overdoses.”

 

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