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Mental-health helpline, budget top board’s March agenda

Senior Editor Top Stories

Florida Bar Building Flag FlyingThe Board of Governors is expected to consider establishing a Florida Bar mental-health helpline when it meets March 20, part of a continuing effort to address the health and well being of its members.

The recommendation comes from the Standing Committee on Mental Health and Wellness of Florida Lawyers, which voted at the Bar’s Winter Meeting to enter into a contract with CorpCare, a counseling agency that provides a broad range of services for people dealing with depression, stress, alcohol/drug abuse, family problems, workplace conflicts, psychological, and other issues.

CorpCare has a network of 200 therapists in Florida, and expects to add more. The company boasts a nationwide network of 11,000. The 24/7 helpline would be staffed by licensed mental-health professionals, and if needed, members could access three free in-person therapy sessions per member per year. There will be no cost to eligible Bar members to use these confidential services.

President-elect Dori Foster-Morales has long been a proponent of establishing the helpline and expanding mental-health services to Bar members.

The contract with CorpCare – which also provides similar services for the Georgia, South Carolina, and Maryland bars – is still being finalized.

Mental Health and Wellness Committee Co-Chair Carl Schwait said at the Winter Meeting that the program will be completely separate from the Bar’s discipline program and will be completely confidential.

The board will also consider preliminary approval of a Bar’s FY 2020-2021 budget, and a series of proposed rule changes.

Final figures that are being presented to the board were unavailable at press time, but Budget Committee Chair-elect Melissa VanSickle told board members at a January meeting to expect the spending plan to remain mostly unchanged.

The conservative projections discussed at the January meeting reflect $42.5 million in revenues and $45 million in expenses, resulting in an operating deficit of about $2.5 million. Despite recent volatility in the stock market, the investment portfolio is adequately diversified and able to support the organization until the stock market stabilizes.

The Bar has not requested a fee increase since 2001, and the nearly two-decade streak is expected to continue.

Board members will also be asked to recommend approval of a series of proposed rule changes:

• Rule 1-7.3 Membership Fees – Within subdivisions (c) and (e), changes notice of delinquency from executive director to the Bar in general.

• Rule 4-6.1 Pro Bono Public Service – Within subdivision (d), deletes specific categories to be included for the pro bono reporting requirement to be included on the membership fees statement.

• Rule 5-1.2 Trust Accounting Records and Procedures — Within subdivision (d)(5), adds that The Florida Bar will send a notice to Bar members of their delinquency for failure to provide the trust account certificate.

• Fee Arbitration Procedural Rule IV. Hearings — Within subdivision (d), adds requirements for parties who call expert witnesses in fee arbitration.

Another series of proposals will also be presented on first reading, with no board action required.

The list includes proposed changes to Rule 4-1.14 Client Under a Disability, conforming Florida’s rule to ABA Model Rule with some changes to address specific Florida authority, including changing terminology from “disability” to “diminished capacity.”

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