THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
With a dramatic increase in the number of children being taken in for involuntary psychiatric examinations, a state panel on July 20 began looking to address the Baker Act issue.
More than 32,000 children were subject to examinations under Florida’s Baker Act during the 2015-16 fiscal year, an increase of nearly 50 percent statewide over five years. Six counties saw increases of more than 100 percent over the same period.
Under the Baker Act, people can be held against their will for up to 72 hours, until doctors determine whether they will likely hurt themselves or others. Legislation passed this year required minors to be seen within 12 hours of arriving at facilities.
It also created the Task Force on Involuntary Examination of Minors within the Department of Children and Families to address the issue. The group held its first meeting July 20 in Tallahassee.
April Lott, CEO of Directions for Living, a community mental-health agency in Pinellas County, said many people don’t know how to help children and see the Baker Act as their only option.