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Local Officials, Organizations are Seeing an Increase in Baker Act use in SWFL

The local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Health held a community forum Monday morning on the Baker Act.

What is the Baker Act ?

“The Baker Act is the actual legal process of putting someone under a Baker Act and that’s really the protection of making sure they have the assessment of their condition,” Chris Hansen, a member of the local NAMI chapter Board of Directors said.

The act is a procedure under Florida law that ensures someone who shows evidence they are a danger to themselves or others . The act makes sure that after being assessed, their rights are restored in a timely manner.

“Before the Baker Act, it was very easy to have someone committed to a mental health facility and their rights could be taken away,” Hansen said. He mentioned that in Southwest Florida, there has been a larger number of Baker Acts where people are brought in for emergency

Looking at reports from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, the department received seven calls for Baker Acts of the 30 reported received calls on April 22, 2018. On April 20, 6 of the 56 reported calls were for Baker Acts.

“The reason why we’re doing this discussion is to help educate the family members about the Baker Act process,” Vacharee Howard, the executive VP of the local NAMI chapter said.

However, only certain people can write a Baker Act evaluation. This includes physicians, law enforcement officers, social worker, and mental health counselors.

In Lee County, there are two Baker Act receiving facilities at SalusCare and Park Royal hospital. The David Lawrence Center in Collier County and Charlotte Behavioral Health in Charlotte County are also receiving facilities.

Any emergency room can also receive Baker Acts.