What is the Baker Act?
The Juvenile Justice Committee invited Carrie Boyd, Policy Director of the Southern Poverty Law Center to learn about a Florida statute that is having increased use. The Baker Act allows doctors, judges, mental health professionals, and law enforcement to commit a child or an adult involuntarily to a mental health center for up to 72 hours for evaluation if they are viewed as being in danger of hurting themselves or others. Law enforcement officers, who are not mental health professionals, bring in over half of the cases with children. It is very concerning that parents do not have to be notified, so they may not even know where their child is. The use of the Baker Act has significantly increased every year since 2002. About 36,000 children were Baker Acted last year. Viewing the data on youth in Florida, there has been a continuing annual increase in mental health conditions such as depression and thoughts of suicide. Discharge planning for care and treatment has not met the needs of the children. Legislation has been introduced in the Florida Senate (SB 828) by Senator Book and the House of Representatives (HB 405) by Rep. Maney to reform this statute. Go to: https://www.usf.edu/cbcs/baker-act/ to learn more about the use of the Baker Act in Florida.