The year 2016 has been plagued by the death of many influential, important and well-known people. We lost many, from musical icons like Price and David Bowie to feminist icon and actress Carrie Fisher. There’s one person that also passed last year, a man not well known to the general public but who has nonetheless made a huge impact in the state of Florida.
Dr. Burton Hutman is responsible for modernizing and revolutionizing the mental health system in Florida. After moving to Miami from New York in 1970, he was astounded by the lack of suitable care centers for the mentally ill. Instead of treatment people suffering from mental illnesses were instead jailed alongside everyone else.
Hutman became one of the earliest advocates for mental health in the state of Florida. He established crisis intervention centers and defined criteria for admitting mentally ill patients into emergency rooms. In 1972 he lobbied for Florida to adopt the Baker Act, which has saved countless lives by allowing for the involuntary institutionalization and examination of people who pose risk to others or themselves.
Dr. Hutman became the voice of the mental health community in Florida at the time. He spent his career trying to improve the day-to day conditions of the mentally ill and making it so that these people were treated, not just locked away.
The landscape of mental health in Florida would look very different today without this man. Mental illnesses are now seen as treatable ailments rather than problems needing to be locked away. Hutman passed away on Dec. 24th at the age of 84 after spending his life treating people with a mental health issue with kindness and compassion.
The mental health field in Florida will forever be grateful for the tireless work Hutman did during his life. His legacy will be remembered by the continued work of mental health professions, hospital and clinic and the psychiatrists of Florida.