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Lawmakers Want Review of 'Baker Act'

Florida House of Representatives

Two South Florida lawmakers have filed bills that would require a review of Florida's "Baker Act,'' which allows for the involuntary commitment of people who have mental illnesses and are considered dangers to themselves or others.

The proposals (SB 514 and HB 505), filed by Sen. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Boynton Beach, and Rep. Lori Berman, D-Lantana, will be considered during the legislative session that starts in March.

Under the proposals, the Florida Department of Children and Families would create a workgroup that would study issues such as lengthening the amount of time in conducting initial assessments of people subject to the Baker Act.

Also, the panel would consider issues such as using telemedicine for patient evaluation, case management and ongoing care. Telemedicine involves using the Internet and other technology to provide health-care services remotely.

The workgroup, which would include a wide range of members, would be required to submit a final report by Nov. 1.

In a prepared statement Monday, Abruzzo said the proposal is aimed at curbing a cycle of commitment and treatment.

"There are far too many people who are caught up in a revolving door of treatment and release with no long-term plan for turning things around," Abruzzo said.

"We need to review and revise the law to offer greater options and better outcomes."

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