Commissioner Fears Hospital Privatization
By  Marc McAfee
Jackson County, Fla:

Jackson County Commissioner Jeremy Branch drove to the State Capital Wednesday to testify before a House
Budgeting Committee on the importance of leaving Florida’s mental health facilities alone.  Governor Rick Scott’s
budget proposal calls for the facilities to be privatized.  

The proposal would mean the Sunland Center in Marianna and Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee would be
handed over to a private company within the next two years.  The Sunland Center employs 750 Jackson County
workers, and Florida State Hospital employs 727.  

Branch said he fears a privatization could be the first step toward a negative future, noting that some of the buildings
at Florida State Hospital date back to the Civil War.  

“They do not operate very efficiently.  So private companies, which are profit driven, are not going to be excited
about operating [those buildings] because it’s going to be costly to them,” Branch said.

“And after a year or two we fully expect that they’ll look to relocate them to another newer, more efficient facility—
probably elsewhere in the state.”

Asked whether some cuts were necessary in order to make up for a $3 billion state budget shortfall, Branch said the
current budget plan is excessive, because the Governor is asking for billions more than what’s needed to meet the

“These cuts go beyond what is required to balance the state budget,” Branch said.

“And these are real living and breathing people, they are not statistics on a sheet of paper.”

Branch said he’s been given no indication that the facilities would be closed or moved, but he planned to travel to the
capitol to make sure Jackson County residents were well represented.  

The Governor’s office did not respond to repeated requests for comment.