In the state of Florida hospitals, psychiatrists and people have the ability to commit patients in psych wards for up to 72 hours for evaluation if they are perceived to be a danger to themselves and others. It’s called the Baker Act and since its implementation, it has saved countless lives.
Recently, though, a 6-year-old boy was locked up for three days in a psychiatric facility in Jacksonville, Florida without his parents’ consent. All for throwing a tantrum. What is usually used as a last resort to save a life was pushed onto a child of 6 that was simply biting and kicking. The behavior was surely disruptive but dangerous and life threatening?
The parents’ of the boy tried on three separate occasions to get their son out but were unable. Medical records show the boy was locked in a “seclusion” room, was assaulted by another child and had to wait for 24 hours before seeing a psychiatrist.
There are many top psychiatrists in Florida but the system is still failing. Florida currently ranks 49th, and quickly racing towards 50th, in terms of spending on mental health. Even with government grants coming the states way the mental health field looks bleak.
Mental health advocates and Florida psychiatrists are pushing for change. They want increased spending to develop mental health facilities and aid. They also want to alter the Baker Act so that incidents, as described above, won’t happen.
Top Florida psychiatrists won’t commit patients under the Baker Act, or recommend commitment unless it is a last resort to save the patient and others from harm. Situations like the one the young boy and his family faced are rare but problematic. Most Florida psychiatrists agree there needs to be changed in order to better the field they work in.