• Kissimmee city leaders ask lawmakers to make mental health a legislative priority

    By: Michael Lopardi


    KISSIMMEE, Fla. - In the wake of the fatal shooting of two Kissimmee police officers last month, city leaders are working to prioritize resources for mental health problems in the area.

    As the accused killer, Everett Miller, sat in court, city leaders sat with local lawmakers and asked them to restore funding for Park Place—a mental health treatment facility.

    Read: Death penalty sought for accused Kissimmee cop killer

    “As we know, mental health is an issue that not only affects this county or the state, it affects nationwide,” said Mayor Jose Alvarez.

    Timeline: Shootings of Kissimmee police officers

    The facility’s CEO, Jim Shanks, says the issue has taken on new significance in the wake of the shooting.

    “I think the city has a particular interest because the individual who murdered their two police officers was dealing with mental health issues,” said Shanks.

    Roughly two months before the August shootings, Park Place says it learned lawmakers cut funding by about $1 million, some of which would have funded mental health treatment.

    Read: Report: 'I have done a bad thing,' accused Kissimmee police killer tells detectives

    Shanks said he was forced to lay off 25 people and limit the amount of charity work for patients who can’t pay.

    “We really need that funding to pay for those beds and they often are full,” he said.

    Watch: Thousands attend funeral of slain Kissimmee police officers

    This week, city commissioners approved a list of legislative priorities that include restoration of the funding and support to change the law so that patients committed under the mental health law, like Everett Miller, cannot possess firearms for at least 6 months after being discharged.

    “We would like to see that at least the doctors, the specialists, could have at least six months to evaluate this individual and make sure that this person can continue to carry a weapon or not and leave that to the professionals in the medical industry,” said Alvarez.

    Read: Police: 2 Kissimmee police officers fatally shot

    The mayor said his support for more funding came even before the shootings.

    Though city leaders made their desires known to Osceola County lawmakers Friday, there’s no guarantee any of the priorities will actually make it into law during the legislative session.

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