Maney’s Mental Health Bill Passes Unanimously in Florida House. Here are the next steps:

Breaking: Florida House votes unanimously on groundbreaking mental health bill, marking the first significant update in over five decades. Find out how these changes aim to revolutionize mental health services.

The Florida House of Representatives voted unanimously today in favor of CS/CS/HB 7021 – Mental Health and Substance Abuse. This groundbreaking bill, introduced every year of his time in office by State Representative Patt Maney and championed this year by House Speaker Paul Renner, aims to bring modernization to Florida’s Baker and Marchman Acts. Notably, these updates mark the first in 53 and 30 years, respectively.

RELATED: Help for Mental Health on the Horizon? An Explanation of HB 7021.

Having received unanimous approval at each committee stop and 111 yeas to 0 nays in the Florida House, HB 7021 proposes essential changes to involuntary mental health treatment services. The bill seeks to broaden the definition of licensed medical practitioners qualified to provide care, enhance the responsibilities of county courts, and streamline the mental health service delivery system. Crucially, a $50 million appropriation supports these transformative efforts.

“Persistence surely does pay off,” said Maney in a release on March 4, “After four years in office pursuing these improvements, I am delighted that my colleagues are just as determined as I to see this good legislation implemented. We need to shore up our Baker and Marchman Acts to reflect today’s needs. Florida’s families deserve the kinds of warm hand-offs in care and positive outcomes in stabilization and treatment when their loved ones are assessed for mental health needs. Especially post-pandemic, our mental health is too important to ignore. This comprehensive bill is a great stepping stone to even greater improvements to come. I am eternally grateful to House Speaker Renner, Senate President Passidomo and Governor DeSantis for encouraging the systemic modernization of these critical treatment laws so that we can do right by those experiencing mental health crises in our fair State of Florida.” 

He says the bill focuses on improving public safety, protecting individual liberty, and making mental health treatment more efficient and accessible. It grants law enforcement discretion in initiating involuntary mental health evaluations, expands the role of physician assistants and APRNs in psychiatric settings, and revises standards for testimony to include telecommunication options. The bill also streamlines the Marchman Act evaluation and treatment process, giving the court more authority to determine types of involuntary services.

One of the key features is the requirement for data collection and analysis, which is to be posted on the Department of Children and Families (DCF) website. The bill also aligns differing processes, criteria, and standards under the Baker Act and the Marchman Act.

State Senator Erin Grall sponsors the Senate companion bill SB 1784, which will appear before the Florida Senate for a vote shortly before heading to the Governor’s desk for final approval.

The Florida Mental Health Act of 1971, commonly known as the “Baker Act,” allows for short-term inpatient involuntary and voluntary examination, inpatient involuntary and voluntary admission, and involuntary outpatient treatment for mental illness. The Hal S. Marchman Alcohol and Other Drug Services Act of 1993, commonly known as the “Marchman Act,” allows for the involuntary and voluntary assessment, stabilization, and treatment of individuals allegedly abusing alcohol or drugs.

Next Steps

For the bill to become law – the Florida Senate must pass a companion bill in their chamber. Should Senator Grall’s bill pass the Senate, the Governor of Florida would have the chance to sign, veto or allow the bill to become law. 

Under Florida law, the Governor can sign a bill and make it law, he can veto it, and send it back to the legislature with the chance they could override his veto, or he can allow the bill to become law without his signature, effective on July 1 of 2024.

The bill on the Senate side has passed through both committees it was referred to, Children, Families, and Elder Affairs and Fiscal Policy, with unanimous votes. 

You can follow that bill’s progress here. 


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