Local FACT team secures funding for second year

Though a new team of mental health professionals in the county has received funding for a second year in a row through the state’s budgeting process, the team’s enduring future here is still not completely assured.


“We were fortunate to make it in the budget again this year,” Ivan Cosimi told The Record Friday. “But it was with non-recurring dollars.”

Cosimi is the CEO of Stewart-Marchman-Act Behavioral Healthcare, the county’s behavioral health services provider, who administers the St. Johns-Putnam County FACT Team.

FACT stands for, Florida Assertive Community Treatment. The team of 12 consists of psychiatrists, case managers, therapists, advanced registered nurse practitioners and nurses.

Together they “provide comprehensive, out-patient community based services to adults who have a severe and persistent mental illness,” read a recent newsletter from state Rep. Cyndi Stevenson, who helped advocate for the team.

Often, according to the letter, the people have experienced “multiple psychiatric hospitalizations and are unable to consistently perform activities of daily living or work” and “would otherwise be on the street or in an institution.”

“This year, $1.5 million has been appropriated to support a mental health FACT Team through SMA Behavioral,” the newsletter said.

It was welcome news to Cosimi who has been hard at work getting the team up and running here since it got its first round of funding last year.

“I think it’s going very well,” he said.

The team, which has been touted by local officials, including St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar, is designed to provide services to the 100 “most severely mental ill” in the two counties, Cosimi said.

“These are primarily folks that are coming out of the state hospital,” he added.

Shoar, and others, have long held that providing treatment for those suffering profoundly from mental illness is money well-spent because it not only eases the burden on local hospitals, the jail and the courts, but it also protects those suffering by helping them avoid dangerous, and potentially deadly, interactions with law enforcement officers.

Cosimi said his team is still in the process of identifying and servicing the 100 individuals.

“I think we are in the mid-60s right now,” he said.

Participating in the program is voluntary, but part of the team’s work includes reaching out to those who might need help and explaining the benefits. Those who need it, and do participate, often report a dramatic drop in symptoms through proper management, including fewer thoughts and attempts of suicide, and a reduction in severe depressive periods, Cosimi said.

Positive outcomes like that are why it is important to get solid funding, Cosimi said.

“It makes us nervous that, sort of, these folks’ lives are at stake,” he said. “We will really be working hard next year to get them to make it a recurring item in the budget.”