JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Denise Marzullo has a shelf full of books devoted to fundraising. She says that's how her agency Mental Health America of Northeast Florida affords to get by.
"When it comes to the priority and the value that's placed on mental health funding, there aren't too many counties that are lower than us," Marzullo said.
Over the past three years, Florida has cut $34 million from its mental health budget. Florida now ranks next to last in the nation for mental health funding and Northeast Florida is getting the smallest slice of that tiny state pie. The budget for Duval, Clay, and Nassau counties falls about $15 million.
"It hasn't been our priority," said Marzullo of the state.
But that may soon change.
The tragedy in Newtown has brought mental health issues to light. State lawmakers are hearing this week from experts warning them the way we are now just isn't safe.
"When you look at the community, there's a lot more violence because of untreated mental illness," said Marzullo.
And she hopes lawmakers realize they can't wait for another calamity to act.
"If we don't provide treatment for them at a preventative level, we could easily have the type of tragedy that happened at Sandy Hook Elementary," said Marzullo.
According to Mental Health America, for every dollar that's spent on inpatient residential psychiatric care, 99 cents of that could be saved if we put that money toward preventative care.
Florida spends $723 million a year on mental health.