TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The University of South Florida’s Baker Act Reporting Center has released numbers from the 2017-2018 fiscal year that showcases of involuntary examinations under The Florida Mental Health Act (commonly known as ‘the Baker Act’) are on the rise.
The report shows that 36,078 children under the age of 18 were placed under the Baker Act during the year. That’s over 3,000 more than the previous year.
Former Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill into law in 2017 that created a task force within the Department of Children and Families to “address the issue of involuntary examination of minors age 17 and younger.”
The statute signed by the governor required the task force to research the root causes of any trends in involuntary examinations, among other things.
A task force report released in Nov. 2017 stated “it is not possible to identify specific root causes directly linked to the trend of increased Baker Act initiations. There is a confluence of individual, family, community and societal factors at play, which may vary by community.”
The task force did identify areas of potential root causes to the increase in Baker Act initiations in Florida children, including social stressors and risk factors, which the report says includes school or public shootings.
Other social stressors and risk factors include the impact of child abuse and trauma, poverty/economic insecurity, social media and cyberbullying and more.
Other areas of potential root causes include mental health conditions among children and teens and limited availability of access to a continuum of services and supports, the task force report states.
The Baker Act Reporting Center report confirms that from 2013-2014 to the most recent report, involuntary examinations of children increased 18.85 percent.