In Florida, showing mental health struggles could get a child detained

From The Washington Post, a story on increasing use of the Baker Act, or the Florida Mental Health Act of 1971, in involuntarily committing minors across the state: 

“When a fourth-grader in Florida was frustrated about having to sit out his afternoon recess, he penciled a word on an outdoor bench: kill. A teacher asked him about it, and he said it was what he wanted God to do to him.

“His mother, Marah Marino, guessed he was hurt and angry. ‘He’s not a mature 10-year-old,’ she said.

“But soon, a sheriff’s deputy who was working in the school stepped in, using a controversial state law to order an involuntary psychiatric evaluation and confinement for up to three days in a mental health facility. . . . 

“Every day in Florida, children and adolescents are involuntarily committed for psychiatric assessments under the Baker Act, a 1971 law. In fiscal year 2020-21, involuntary exams happened more than 38,000 times to children under 18 — an average of more than 100 a day and a nearly 80 percent increase in the past decade, according to the most recent data. The law is so deeply enmeshed into the state’s culture that it is widely used as a verb, as in: The 6-year-old was ‘Baker Acted.’”

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