The following guest column by Gulf Coast President/CEO Mark Pritchett appeared in the July 17 edition of SRQ Daily:
A special and warm-hearted thank you to Sarasota County Commissioners Mike Moran, Nancy Detert, and Al Maio for your courage and leadership on mental health in our community.
By voting last week to approve a dedicated millage for a mental-health district in the county’s fiscal year 2022 budget proposal, these elected leaders have responded constructively to a crisis in our community, listened carefully to their constituents, and taken responsibility for helping to solve a problem they didn’t create.
As sometimes happens when such a consequential question is finally called, the vote itself on Wednesday was rather prosaic— quiet and quick. That’s because so much important research, debate and collaboration has already been invested in assessing and prioritizing this issue and optimizing an action plan to address it.
We have a mental health emergency in our community that was exacerbated by the pandemic. We know that a dedicated and sustainable source of public funding that if spent wisely will help our families and children get the assistance they so badly need. Community business and philanthropic leaders have identified and supported this millage as the best option to make progress while maintaining transparency and accountability. But I assure you, it was not easy for Chairman Maio, Commissioner Detert and Commissioner Moran. All three exhibited great leadership in the face of highly partisan rhetoric. They acted courageously, judiciously and selflessly in casting their “aye” votes.
For three years, Gulf Coast Community Foundation and Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation have been working cooperatively with a group of human-service organizations to build a safety net of mental health care for children and families in Sarasota County. Brave parents and children who use those services have spoken up about their deeply personal challenges in order to help craft a client-centered, unified system of care. By advancing a mental health district and selecting a dedicated funding source, Commissioners Moran, Detert and Maio have moved our community substantially closer to that essential goal.
Commissioners, thank you for your vision and your brave actions. We stand resolutely with you as you continue to lead us forward.