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Baker and Marchman acts legislation headed to the governor

Senior Editor Top Stories
Sen. Aaron Bean

Sen. Aaron Bean

The Legislature has agreed to “tweak” the Baker and Marchman acts, laws that govern the voluntary and involuntary treatment of Floridians with mental health and substance use disorders, respectively.

The House voted 117-0 on March 8 to approve SB 1844 by Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Jacksonville. Rep. Patt Maney, R-Ft. Walton Beach, sponsored a companion, HB 1143, that died in a health and human services committee.

Bean’s bill, like the House companion, was a 55-page behemoth when he filed it earlier this year, and contained provisions that would have streamlined voluntary and involuntary Baker and Marchman act commitment procedures.

The original measures also would have made prosecutors, not friends and relatives, the “party of interest” in Marchman Act proceedings, a recommendation of a Florida Bar taskforce.

“I embarked on a journey at the beginning of this session….to do a very major overhaul, I had bold plans,” Bean said when he introduced the measure to the Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee last month.

But then Bean offered a “strike-all” amendment that whittled the bill to six pages, saying stakeholders couldn’t agree on all of the provisions.

“Over the last several weeks, I have come to realize…our Marchman and Baker acts don’t need major overhauling, they just need some minor tweaks,” he said.

The amended version would make it easier for parents or guardians to seek voluntary mental-health treatment for a minor by removing a Baker Act requirement that the receiving facility conduct a “voluntariness” hearing.

Another provision requires law enforcement officers use the “least restrictive means available” when transporting Baker and Marchman act patients.

This session, the Legislature also signed off on SB 1262 by Sen. Danny Burgess, R-Zephyr Hills. Rep. Ralph Massullo, Jr., R-Beverly Hills, sponsored the companion, HB 1277.

SB 1262 limits the ability of Baker and Marchman act receiving facilities to restrict patient access to visitors, phone calls and letters.

Another provision requires law enforcement officers to search a database for emergency contact information before transporting a patient to a Baker or Marchman act receiving facility.

Florida Behavioral Health Association president Melanie Brown-Woofter issued a statement after the bills received final approval.

“The (FBHA) lauded the Legislature after passage of bills (SB 1262/SB 1844) updating state laws on involuntary commitments for mental health and substance abuse,” Woofter said. “By sponsoring and supporting SB 1262, Sen. Danny Burgess and Rep. Ralph Massullo have made Floridians who struggle with mental health and substance use disorders a priority.”

Brown-Woofter also credited Bean and Rep. Linda Chaney, R-St. Petersburg. Chaney sponsored a related measure, HB 1179.

“Thanks to Sen. Bean and Rep. Chaney for their leadership by sponsoring SB 1844, which guarantees that a child being treated for a mental health condition is no longer subjected to the court process,” Brown-Woofter said.

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