The Florida Mental Health Act, also known as the “Baker Act” is a law which allows for the friends, family, physicians, mental health professionals or others to involuntarily hospitalize an individual who may have a mental illness and be a danger to themselves or others. While the bill has provided a powerful tool to protect people in crisis, modernization of the law is necessary to continue to produce better outcomes.
One such modernization is to establish a continuum of care so that individuals committed through the Baker Act have a clear path forward on their mental health journey and reduces the likelihood of repeat commitments. It is important that we recognize that treating a mental health crisis doesn’t stop when the individual is removed from immediate danger, there needs to be care that not only prevents future crises, but allows them to flourish and lead the life they deserve.
The 988 Helpline is a new suicide prevention hotline which will direct callers to their local National Suicide Prevention Lifeline center.
One of the most important facets of the national 988 implementation is the behavioral health experts on the other side of the line when called. By directing calls from 988 to the proper call centers rather than 911 dispatchers, you have people equipped to help people in crisis when they need it most, which can lead to much better outcomes, sometimes without needing to dispatch emergency services.
However, the efficacy of the 988 Helpline in our community will heavily depend on the funding and implementation from our state’s leadership. Contact your state senator and representative to voice how important proper funding of the 988 Helpline is to you.
The recently passed Parental Rights in Education bill, also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill bars schools from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity before grade 4 or “in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.” While the censorship before grade 4 is already sending a harmful message to LGBTQ+ youth that their identities are something to be hidden, the broad language in the second half of the sentence opens the bill up to limit conversations on the topic far beyond grade 4.
A proposed amendment to the bill also required school staff to out students’ sexual or gender identity to their parents within six weeks of learning about it, but this was dropped before the bill was passed.
The bill will now go to Governor Desantis who has voiced support for the bill in the past and is expected to sign it into law. We urge you to call and email Governor Desantis to voice your disapproval of this bill and how it can have a negative impact on the mental health of LGBTQ+ youth, a group who needs to be supported more than ever during this global mental health crisis, rather than be discriminated against.
SB 1240 would require charter schools to report students who have been removed from school activities due to an involuntary mental health examination. This would improve the reporting that the Department of Education shares with the Department of Children and Families. Ultimately, SB1240 would provide parents of students receiving mental health services with information about services that may help the student and provide other members of the student’s house with information about services the student qualifies for.
The improvement of reporting and education on mental health services will not only keep us more informed on the state of student mental health but will keep those around the students in need more informed about the ways they can help the student. Contact your state senator to voice your support for SB1240
Currently, the Agency for Health Care Administration reports data on the performance of Florida’s SMMC to measure the efficacy of their services. Unfortunately, this information is not broken down by racial, ethnic, sex or other demographics that could help have a better understanding of the treatment these demographics are receiving. SB 1258 and HB 855 look to change this to improve the efficiency and efficacy of these programs, saving taxpayer money and improving outcomes.
By requiring SMMC performance be reported along demographic lines, they can reduce costs by removing the guesswork in finding disparities and reduce disparities by holding the ACHA accountable for any shortcomings in serving demographic groups that may be currently underserved.
As a firm believer in the importance of equity in our community, especially with regards to life-changing health care programs, we view passing SB 1258 and HB 855 as essential bills. Contact your state senator and representative to voice your support for SB1258 and HB 855.
SB 544 expands access to emergency opioid antagonists, which reduces the effects of an opioid overdose.
In addition to expanding access, SB 544 will increase education on emergency opioid antagonists and limit criminal liability of their administration to ensure people have no reservations about using these life-saving drugs when needed.
Opioid addiction is not a moral failing, but a sickness. By expanding the use of opioid overdose medication, Florida can save lives and have the chance to set people on the path to recovery. Contact your state senator to voice your support for SB544.
Action Alerts are email notifications of current legislation. The Florida Mental Health Advocacy Coalition provides an excellent action alert service and we highly recommend that you to subscribe to stay informed and advocate for mental health.
The best way to show your support for any form of legislation is to contact your legislators directly. Calling allows your concerns to be recorded and lets legislators know which issues are important to their constituents. Remember, re-election is an important priority for legislators. By making them aware of what matters to their voters, you are making the issue more important to them.