Legislation Aims to Update Baker Act Protocols for Children
In Florida, 37,882 children were detained for involuntary psychiatric exams in 2018-2019. A new report from Florida Weekly states that the rate at which children are being subjected to these examinations has increased far faster than all other age groups in recent years. Legislation being considered now by Florida lawmakers would create statewide protocols that focus on quality care when it comes to Baker Act cases involving children.
The criteria for Baker Acting someone has remained the same for children as it is for adults. That has to change, mental health, social workers, legal experts and advocates say. State Legislators have pushed for various measures over the last few years to reform the Baker Act and how it applies to minors.
Now, significant changes appear to be on the way with two identical, companion bills making their way through the state legislative session.
Senate Bill 1510, “Mental Health of Minors,” was filed by Sen. Bobby Powell Jr., D-District 30, which covers part of Palm Beach County. House Bill 1459, the companion bill, was filed by Rep. Fentrice Driskell, D-District 63, which covers part of Hillsborough County.
The bills could be game-changing. Among several strong provisions, they give more power to parents to ensure that they are involved every step of the way from the moment their child first faces the possibility of being Baker Acted.
The bills are relatively early in the legislative process. Both have been introduced in their respective houses of the legislature and are undergoing review by various committees.
- David Brown, president, and co-founder of Family Initiative, an organization that works within the Southwest Florida community to support children and families impacted with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
- Mary Wozniak, staff writer for Florida Weekly
- Jeff Cull, Vice President & Executive Editor of Florida Weekly