A new bill from state Rep. Kimberly Daniels is looking to limit the restraint of juveniles during transportation to an involuntary examination under the Baker Act.
Under current law, individuals may be required to appear for an involuntary examination by a court under.
“If other less restrictive means are not available, such as voluntary appearance for outpatient evaluation, a law enforcement officer, or other designated agent of the court, shall take the person into custody and deliver him or her to an appropriate, or the nearest, facility within the designated receiving system…for involuntary examination,” the statute reads.
Daniels, a Jacksonville Democrat, would amend that subsection with her legislation (HB 1027).
“An officer transporting a minor under this subparagraph shall restrain the minor in the least restrictive manner necessary under the circumstances,” reads Daniels’ addition to the statute.
Daniels’ push comes after a report released this summer showed juveniles being Baker Acted in record numbers during fiscal year 2017-18.
The annual report from the University of South Florida Baker Act Reporting Center detailed data showing more than 36,000 juveniles were subject to involuntary examinations under the act. That represents a jump of 10% from the previous high, set one year prior.
USF researchers translated those numbers to a rate of 1,186 involuntary exams per 100,000 children during that year.
While the number of exams jumped 10%, the population of juveniles increased just 0.3% from the previous year.
Looking at the numbers over a decade, the number of involuntary examinations from fiscal year 2007-08 to fiscal year 2017-18 increased by 83%. The juvenile population, meanwhile, actually decreased from 2007 to 2017.
The decision to send a juvenile to an involuntary examination can be made by a law enforcement officer. Those officers often do not have extensive mental health training.
Some parents have worried that the increase in these examinations in recent years is harming juveniles who may be suffering from mental health issues but are not necessarily a danger to themselves or others.
Daniels’ bill would take effect on July 1, 2020, if successful.