In the weeks following the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., and leading up to Saturday's March For Our Lives, there's been a lot of talk about the Baker Act in Florida.
Politicians and sheriffs have openly talked about mental health and how the Baker Act should or should not be expanded or improved.
We decided to go right to the source and look at the Baker Act from the perspective of someone who actually lived it.
Jessica Jackson from Avon Park was placed under the Baker Act after attempting suicide in August 2017. She said the whole ordeal was a bad experience, and she wasn't given the help she actually needed.
"I'm not a murderer," she said. "I'm not somebody that needs to be in jail and that's exactly how I felt. Feed me, house me, leave me there, and when you're done with me, throw me back out to society."
Jackson said it was basically just housing and medication -- no counseling, no guidance or therapy, some people even stayed in bed all day. It wasn't until she was released that she actually got the treatment she needed on her own.
WHAT IS THE BAKER ACT?
The Baker Act is a law in Florida that allows someone to be taken into custody and given a psychiatric exam against their will.
HOW DOES THE BAKER ACT WORK?
Typically someone calls 911 during a crisis, then police make the decision to "Baker Act" an individual. The person is then taken to a facility where they're supposed to get a physical exam within 24 hours and a psychiatric exam within 72 hours. From there, the person either decides to be discharged or seek treatment elsewhere.
HOW OFTEN ARE PEOPLE PLACED UNDER THE BAKER ACT?
According to a report by the University of South Florida and Florida Department of Children and Families, Baker Act numbers continue to rise. In the 2015-16 fiscal year, approximately 194,000 people were placed under the Baker Act. Ten years prior, that number was roughly 119,000 people.
Diane Stein, president of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights Florida, weighed in. "I think the Baker Act is being abused. I think it's being abused by for-profit psychiatric hospitals."
DOES THE BAKER ACT WORK?
Stein said that she hears a lot of stories like Jackson's about the Baker Act. She's heard from many people who say the experience inside the facility was not helpful. Parents have even told her that their children are traumatized afterward.
"Until the corruption within the mental health industry -- because it is a business, people, let's be real -- is uncovered, addressed and rectified, I don't think we'll honestly have a solid solution to the problems we're facing," added Stein.
Ultimately, the Baker Act is not a long-term solution. It's a short-term intervention.
So when politicians mouth off about a tougher Baker Act, you might want to ask them to give an example of exactly what they mean, because the Baker Act we have here in Florida is nothing more than a band-aid.
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