Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Team Reviews Baker Act; A Report Due in January Will Help Determine How the Process Will Work

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Team Reviews Baker Act; A Report Due in January Will Help Determine How the Process Will Work

Article excerpt

Byline: KEN LEWIS

Jacksonville rescue workers found the 24-year-old woman sitting on her front steps, bleeding from a self-inflicted cut to the wrist. She told them she had just lost her lover, and she wanted to die.

After being treated for her injuries, she was involuntarily committed under the state's Baker Act and transported to one of eight receiving facilities in the Jacksonville area.

Depending on the results of a report expected in January from the city's Mental Health and Welfare Office, people such as the 24-year-old may be transported through a central receiving facility in years to come. Authorities are determining the benefits of such a facility, state Department of Children and Families spokesman John Harrell said.

A team of city employees went to an Orlando receiving center last month to educate themselves about the centralized system used there. The Jacksonville Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, a group of law enforcement experts, will consider changes after receiving the report, Harrell said.

Each year thousands of people are involuntarily committed in Jacksonville under the Baker Act, the law that covers people considered a threat to themselves or others. They can be held against their will for three days.

If they need more than 72 hours of care, they may go to the Northeast Florida State Hospital in Macclenny, Harrell said.

Police in Orlando take to a central receiving facility the mentally ill and some substance abusers who need to be hospitalized. Evaluators complete an assessment, and an administrative service organization then places the patients in the most appropriate setting, Harrell said.

The evaluators consider several factors: what level of care is needed, what the funding source is, where there are openings. The funding comes from a city and state partnership.

In the Jacksonville area, people are taken by police to the nearest facility. But the nearest facility may not always be the most appropriate, said Dick Warfel, supervisor of the state's substance abuse and mental health program in Jacksonville. …

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