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Old 02-14-2020, 08:09 PM
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Florida's Baker Act-Overused, or overcriticized?


This story about a six year old girl is all over the news. After supposedly acting out of control at school, a social worker called the police and had her committed to a mental hospital for two days...without informing the mother first. The news reports state that the use of the 50 year old Baker Act has doubled in the last 15 years, and I'm thinking that this needs looking into.
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Old 02-15-2020, 04:28 AM
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Questions that I don't have the answer to: Do many of these children come from abusive homes? Are mental health problems on the rise in America? Do Florida's mental health centers offer an appropriate calming environment? Was the social worker really qualified — (I know he/she had a certificate, but that doesn't answer the question) — to essentially incarcerate the child? How is a school supposed to cope with unmanageable students?

But whatever the answers to these questions, something is dreadfully wrong. I was shocked by the following statistic:
Quote:
The number of children involuntarily transported to a mental health center in Florida has more than doubled in the last 15 years, to about 36,000, according to a 2019 report by the Baker Act Reporting Center.
source: https://www.usf.edu/cbcs/baker-act/d..._2017_2018.pdf
That's 36,000 under-18's annually, 1% of the under-18 population. (Or 206,000 for all ages, 1% of Florida's total population. I suppose the numbers are "inflated" by individuals involuntarily transported to a mental health center more than once in a single year, though the number still seems frighteningly high.)

For comparison, I wondered how many times a 72-hour involuntary hold is exercised in California, but Google failed me. (I did learn that the enabling statute, 5-1-5-0, is well-known enough to be the name of a pop song by Dierks Bentley.)
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Old 02-15-2020, 07:36 AM
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Old 02-15-2020, 09:14 AM
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Checking government figures, it appears that in Colorado, about 0.8% of minors are subject to involuntary 72-hour mental health holds.

Colorado has one of the highest teenage suicide rates in the nation (I believe 6th-highest), so I'm not sure if that involuntary hold number should be higher, or whether the number of holds prevents the suicide rate from being even higher than it is.
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Old 02-15-2020, 10:29 AM
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After reading that article, I would add a third option: poorly designed. The law does not appear to be intended for the purpose in which it was used. In fact, it isn't even designed for children at all--let alone children at a school with a treatment plan.

These types of laws usually exist to be able to diagnose and begin treatment on an undiagnosed or treatment resistent individual with a mental disorder who is harmful to themselves or others. The first half is for those who attempt suicide. The second half is for those with some sort of psychotic episode where they wind up harming others.

The law should be restricted to adults outside of the public school system, and, if necessary, a new law created for the schools that takes into account the current diagnosis, treatment plans, and whether or not the child could be adequately dealt with using the school's own system. And there is absolutely no reason that the child should be isolated from their parent unless there is sign of some sort of abuse.

I can actually sympathize with the idea that a young child can actually be a danger. My mom works with special needs kids at schools, and she's explained how it's surprising how much force a little kid can have if they go full out. (Restrictions like pain and not wanting to hurt yourself hold back most kids, even subconsciously. For example, you can easily bite your own tongue, but go ahead and try to do it intentionally.)

But nothing is gained by having these kids whose diagnosis already explains their actions has an action plan in how to deal with them being committed against their will to be evaluated. And, again, there's no reason beyond abuse for a parent not to be present.

You do not remove a child from their parent without evidence of abuse by that parent. That is cruel, even for 48 hours.
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Old 02-16-2020, 12:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Czarcasm View Post
This story about a six year old girl is all over the news. After supposedly acting out of control at school, a social worker called the police and had her committed to a mental hospital for two days...without informing the mother first. The news reports state that the use of the 50 year old Baker Act has doubled in the last 15 years, and I'm thinking that this needs looking into.
You'll prolly be thinking it needs looking into like right fucking now after you see this video of the deputy questioning why she was doing this to a little girl she described as "quite pleasant" as she had her in the police cruiser.
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Originally Posted by Deputy ????
I think it's more of them just not knowing how to deal with it.
Nadia, only 6 years old, had no idea what was going on.

Last edited by Snowboarder Bo; 02-16-2020 at 12:36 AM. Reason: fixed coding
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Old 02-16-2020, 01:07 AM
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Is there any reason you can think of not to call the mother?
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Old 02-16-2020, 10:00 AM
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Is there any reason you can think of not to call the mother?
Only if the school knew of some abusive past, which is not at all in evidence here.

I'm trying to imagine what I would do if I found out my 6 year old child were taken by a police cruiser to a mental hospital without my knowledge or consent. I don't know that I can even get there mentally -- best case, I would show up armed with several lawyers to get my kid released to me immediately. I've rewritten this several times -- I think I would end up doing something that would land me in jail if my kid weren't immediately released to me.

This is horrifying.
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Old 02-19-2020, 05:49 PM
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Originally Posted by BigT View Post
After reading that article, I would add a third option: poorly designed. The law does not appear to be intended for the purpose in which it was used. In fact, it isn't even designed for children at all--let alone children at a school with a treatment plan.
The "Baker Act" is designed for children, even young children. There is a whole chapter devoted to children, see Fla. Stat. 394, Part III (2019).

Now, I do not understand why they didn't call her mother. You are not supposed to take a person in for involuntary examination unless they meet certain criteria. I think the most relevant criteria here is that there was reason to believe the child was mentally ill, and that because of the child's mental illness A) she was unable to determine for herself whether an examination was necessary and B) there was a substantial likelihood that without care or treatment she would cause serious bodily harm to herself or others in the near future, as evidenced by recent behavior. Fla. Stat. 394.463 (2019).

First, I think it's a stretch to say a six year old's mental illness prevented her from determining whether a mental health examination was necessary, as opposed to her age. In that respect, I think the law is poorly written (ambiguous) for children; but see also 394.499 which was written for children specifically and uses the exact same language.

Second and more importantly, the law requires that the mental facility receiving children for involuntary examinations adheres to certain guidelines. Fla. Stat. 394.4785 (2019). These guidelines include the following:
"The system should be centered on the child, adolescent, and family, with the needs and strengths of the child or adolescent and his or her family dictating the types and mix of services provided." 394.491 (1)

"The families and surrogate families of children and adolescents, including, but not limited to, foster parents, should be active participants in all aspects of planning, selecting, and delivering mental health treatment services at the local level[...]" 394.491 (2)

"Children and adolescents should receive services within the least restrictive and most normal environment that is clinically appropriate for the service needs of the child or adolescent." 394.491 (7), emphasis added

"The delivery of comprehensive child and adolescent mental health services must enhance the likelihood of positive outcomes and contribute to the child’s or adolescent’s ability to function effectively at home, at school, and in the community." 394.491 (11)

"It is the intent of the Legislature that a child or adolescent may not be admitted to a state mental health facility and such a facility may not be included within the array of services." 394.495 (1)

"The department shall contract for community action treatment teams[...] A community action treatment team shall: [...] Focus on engaging the child[...] and his or her family as active participants in every phase of the treatment process." 394.495 (6)
Especially that one I bolded. The least restrictive and most normal environment for a six-year old will be her own home, with her parent(s). The legislature specifically said you don't admit children to state mental health facilities. If the girl was flailing about the room and threatening to cut people's throats, as soon as you have her restrained you call the mom. There should also be a treatment plan on file if she is in spec. ed, possibly with individualized instructions to calm her down while mom drives to school.

~Max

Last edited by Max S.; 02-19-2020 at 05:50 PM.
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