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Senate committee passes legislation to improve delivery of mental health, substance abuse services

The Senate Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs, chaired by Hollywood Democratic Sen. Eleanor Sobel, on Thursday unanimously passed Senate Bill 12, Mental Health and Substance Abuse, sponsored by Hialeah Republican Sen. Rene Garcia to improve the delivery of mental health and substance abuse services.

“Our current system of behavioral health services is fragmented and inefficient, making it hard for persons with complex and persistent illnesses to obtain the services they need,” said Senate President Andy Gardiner.

“All too often we hear devastating stories of mental health and substance abuse issues addressed too little, or too late, to avoid heartbreaking consequences,” the Orlando Republican said. “While government cannot prevent every tragedy, we can do more to ensure people struggling with mental illness or substance abuse find the treatment they need to recover.”

Baker Act and Marchman Act:

SB 12 clarifies the use of involuntary outpatient services to encourage courts to use outpatient services when appropriate and available rather than more costly inpatient care at the state’s treatment facilities. The legislation expands the type of qualified professionals who may recommend involuntary outpatient and inpatient services to the court. It also says a fee won’t be charged to file a petition for involuntary assessment and stabilization for substance abuse under the Marchman Act. SB 12 continues the requirement under the Marchman Act that substance abuse services must be available before the court may order such services, and allows the court to appoint a guardian advocate for a person determined incompetent to consent to treatment for substance abuse.

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No-Wrong-Door Model:

SB 12 defines the “No Wrong Door” model of behavioral health services as a way of optimizing patients’ access to care regardless of their point of entry into the behavioral health system. The bill provides for a gradual transition process driven by annual statewide assessments in conjunction with local or regional planning and requires local planning for the coordinated care system that allows each area to respond and adapt to unique local circumstances.

Managing Entities:

SB 12 updates the duties and responsibilities of the behavioral health managing entities to better serve local communities by coordinating care among a full array of behavior health services. The legislation directs the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to create performance measures and standards to be used in contracts with managing entities. DCF will review managing entities based on these standards to determine if their contracts should be continued.

Additional System Reforms:

SB 12 directs the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) and DCF to develop a plan to obtain federal approval for increasing availability of federal funding for behavioral health care. The legislation also directs AHCA and DCF to modify licensing rules to create an option for a single, consolidated license to ease the administrative burden on providers and make it easier to offer both acute mental health and substance abuse services.

For more information on SB 12, visit www.FLSenate.gov.

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