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Baker Act Bill Gets Revamp In Committee

Regan McCarthy

After a push from members of the House a bill to make changes to the state’s Baker Act rules got a hearing in its first Senate committee Monday, but the group of lawmakers  gave the measure quite a make-over.

The original purpose of the bill was to add nurse practitioners and physicians assistants to the list of people who can sign the needed paperwork to get a person who is in danger of harming themselves or others emergency treatment under the Baker Act.  Nurse Practitioner Mai  Kung said that's crucial to her ability to treat her patients. Adding that nurse practitioners regularly prescribe anti-depressants.

“And we have to monitor our patients regularly. And we assess them when they’re on these medications about their homicidal and suicidal tendencies. Besides, it doesn’t take a whole lot of assessment when a patient says I’m going to go get a gun and kill myself or somebody else,” Kung said.

Kung said she’s experienced the frustration of seeing a patient she knows needs help, but not being able to do what it takes to get the treatment for that person.

“I have a relationship with my patient, who confided in me that they’re suicidal, and I cannot do the work. I have to call a physician or law enforcement to come in and Baker Act the patient,” Kung said.

And some nurse practitioners worry about the idea that a homicidal patient would be free to leave while the nurse looks for someone to sign the forms, or wouldn’t be as forthcoming with a law enforcement officer.

But, during the bill’s hearing in the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee, members of the Senate committee changed the bill, so instead it would just direct the Department of Children and Families to study the issue to determine whether any changes to the statue are needed. Senator Denise Grimsley, (R-Sebring) sponsored the amendment.

“Before we revise the exiting statute, I believe we need to better understand what the problems are, if any. We’ve seen problems not necessarily getting patients into the system, but actually getting patients out of the facilities. And currently nurse practitioners and physicians assistants cannot discharge the patients,” Grimsley said.

The measure as amended passed out of the committee. It’s schedule to be heard Tuesday in the Senate Health Policy Committee.

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Regan McCarthy is the Assistant News Director for WFSU Public Media. Before coming to Tallahassee, Regan graduated with honors from Indiana University’s Ernie Pyle School of Journalism. She worked for several years for NPR member station WFIU in Bloomington, Ind., where she covered local and state government and produced feature and community stories.

Phone: (850) 645-6090 | rmccarthy@fsu.edu

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