Florida mental health advocates push for more resources to meet demand

Nearly 78,000 Baker Act or involuntary holds admitted in a year, FHA says

The Florida Hospital Association said their providers are admitting more Baker Act and involuntary psychiatric holds than ever before.

The organization said that this increase has resulted in providers not having enough resources to meet the needs of patients.

FHA President and CEO Mary Mayhew said mental health service providers are being tasked with providing emergency mental health care beyond the capacities of their facilities.

“When someone needs to get in to a mental health practice, that door needs to be immediately opened. Not six weeks, six months from now. They are in crisis, and they need access to those services,” Mayhew said.

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According to the FHA, of the 82 faculties surveyed, nearly 78,000 Baker Act or involuntary holds were admitted in a one-year period.

Marni Stahlman is the president and CEO of the Mental Health Association of Central Florida. Her association provides a guardian advocate for people during these emergency medical holds.

“When individuals who may not have a family member here in the area that can serve with informed consent while they are in that inpatient, involuntary state of the Baker Act, they have someone there that’s advocating on their behalf,” Stahlman said.

The FHA is also calling for an increased reimbursement. The assocation said each involuntary or Baker Act discharge cost reaches totals between $6,000-$8,000.

Mayhew and Stahlman both said detection and a treatment plan for a mental illness prior to an emergency could help alleviate some of the total costs for the state.

“Help them getting access to community-based mental health services, medication management, that often can prevent some of those hospitals admissions and readmissions,” Mayhew said.

The FHA also said Florida needs more mental health workers, adding that the state has one of the worst rates in the nation, averaging one mental health worker for every 550 patients.

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Troy graduated from California State University Northridge with a Bachelor's Degree in Communication. He has reported on Mexican drug cartel violence on the El Paso/ Juarez border, nuclear testing facilities at the Idaho National Laboratory and severe Winter weather in Michigan.