HB 1143: Revamping the Baker Act

 

House Bill 1143 is the most substantial bill that Representative Patt Maney put together in 2022. The bill changes some of the policies and procedures that cover voluntary and involuntary admissions under the Baker Act.

The Baker Act is the state law which enables families or loved ones to provide emergency mental health services and detention for people who are impaired by a mental illness. The act is used to prevent someone from harming themselves or other people due to a mental illness.

Rep. Maney’s bill would do six big things that matter to you.

  1. The bill shortens the time in between reviews that assess whether or not a person can receive visitors from one week between reviews to three days between reviews. This means that people who are committed under the Baker Act will have more opportunities to see their support groups.
  2. Under the proposed changes, when someone is released from Baker Act protections, the state is legally required to inform that person about “essential elements of recovery and provide them assistance in accessing a continuum of care regimen.” The bill does not go into detail on what the assistance of finding continuum care looks like or what a continuum of care regimen entails.
  3. Law enforcement would no longer be required, should the bill pass into law, to detain a person they believe should be Baker Acted. Should they choose to detain that person, they now need to consider the person’s mental and behavioral state and restrain them in the least restrictive manner necessary. The bill adds, “especially if the person is a minor.”
  4. The bill would allow medical professionals to attend hearings and give testimony about someone who has been Baker Acted in a remote (think Zoom) fashion.
  5. Patient clinical records would be made available to the state attorney within 24 hours of involuntary placement petition filing (which is when a request to Baker Act someone is filed). Those records remain confidential, and importantly, would not be able to be used against the person who has been Baker Acted in a legal proceeding. They can only be used to commit someone to involuntary placement.
  6. Finally, people with developmental disabilities would no longer be Baker Acted. Instead the Florida Department of Elder Affairs would be brought in to further evaluate the situation.

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