Mental Health Watchdog Calling for Greater Protection of Florida’s Senior Citizens

CCHR Florida is raising awareness of the abuse suffered by the elderly under the mental health law especially the unnecessary and potentially harmful involuntary psychiatric examination of seniors, a process called Baker Acting.

The headquarters for CCHR Florida are located in downtown Clearwater.

The headquarters for CCHR Florida are located in downtown Clearwater.

More than 15,000 of Florida’s elderly, including those with dementia, were sent for involuntary psychiatric examinations in 2018.

More than 15,000 of Florida’s elderly, including those with dementia, were sent for involuntary psychiatric examinations in 2018.

Tampa Bay area attorney and former Assistant Public Defender of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit, Carmen Miller, Esq., was the featured speaker at the seminar on mental health rights.

Tampa Bay area attorney and former Assistant Public Defender of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit, Carmen Miller, Esq., was the featured speaker at the seminar on mental health rights.

The Florida Supreme Court published a summary on the use of involuntary and examination, called a Baker Act, which revealed that, “the involuntary placement process is also vulnerable to abuse, and that abuse is often linked to financial gain or convenien

The Florida Supreme Court published a summary on the use of involuntary and examination, called a Baker Act, which revealed that, “the involuntary placement process is also vulnerable to abuse, and that abuse is often linked to financial gain or convenien

While Florida’s legal system now has more power to “act against people who abuse the elderly and seek to profit from their actions” more protection is needed.

The abusive use of the Baker Act among the elder population is a mental health human rights violation and it is our hope that our lawmakers will take effect action to protect seniors.”

— Diane Stein, President CCHR Florida

CLEARWATER, FLORIDA, UNITED STATES, October 27, 2021 /EINPresswire.com/ — The Florida chapter of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), a mental health watchdog organization, is asking lawmakers to take action to help prevent the abusive use of involuntary examination involving elders.

According to the Baker Act Reporting Center, there were 15,457 involuntary psychiatric examinations initiated on individuals 65 years and older during 2018/2019 which was an increase of almost 63% from 2008/2009 while the population increase was only 29%. [1]

Commonly called a Baker Act, the abusive involuntary examination of elders is not a new problem. During the 1990’s, the media reported that approximately two-thirds of the people taken into custody for a Baker Act in Pinellas County during 1993/1994 were seniors. This same article revealed that public testimony before the Florida Legislature uncovered that many elders fared poorly and some even died during or shortly after being taken into custody under the Baker Act. [2]

These revelations led members of the Florida Legislature to reform the Baker Act after it was exposed that some nursing homes and assisted living facilities were sending senior citizens to “a couple of psychiatric hospitals in Pinellas County and getting kickbacks in return”. Unable to provide express and informed consent to the admissions, some of these elders died as a direct result of the transfers. [3]

Unfortunately, elder abuse is all too common in this country. A report from the National Council on Aging notes that, “approximately one in 10 Americans aged 60+ have experienced some form of elder abuse. Some estimates range as high as five million elders who are abused each year. One study estimated that only one in 24 cases of abuse are reported to authorities.” [4]

Abuse of the elderly is not just physical but also mental and has been tied profit in the past. The Florida Supreme Court published a summary on the use of the Baker Act in 1990, which revealed that, “the involuntary placement process is also vulnerable to abuse, and that abuse is often linked to financial gain or convenience of nursing homes, assisted living facilities, mental health facilities, or mental health professionals.” [5]

This Executive Summary went on to report that, “problems exist as well in regard to voluntary admissions. In 1996, the Florida Legislature amended the Baker Act to strengthen patient rights. Despite these enhanced protections, the Subcommittee learned that because in-patient treatment is extremely profitable mental health facilities and professionals sometimes abuse the voluntary admission process. Moreover, some patients deemed to be ‘voluntary’ may in reality lack the capacity to consent.” [6]

Not much has changed since the release of this report with Florida news media regularly reporting on elder abuse. And while Florida’s legal system now has more power to “act against people who abuse the elderly or disabled adults and seek to profit from their actions” more protection is needed. [7]

“The abusive use of the Baker Act among the elder population is a mental health human rights violation,” stated the President for CCHR in Florida, Diane Stein. “It is our hope that our lawmakers will take effect action to protect seniors during this upcoming session.”

CCHR regularly holds free workshops on the Baker Act delivered by attorney Carmen Miller. Mrs. Miller held the position of Assistant Public Defender in the Thirteenth Circuit for many years in Tampa, and is now in the private sector specializing in cases of those who are involuntarily committed under the Baker Act. For more information on the workshop or the protection of elder rights under the mental health law please call 727-442-8820 or visit www.cchrflorida.org.

About CCHR: Initially established by the Church of Scientology and renowned psychiatrist Dr. Thomas Szasz in 1969, CCHR’s mission is to eradicate abuses committed under the guise of mental health and enact patient and consumer protections. L. Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology, first brought psychiatric imprisonment to wide public notice: “Thousands and thousands are seized without process of law, every week, over the ‘free world’ tortured, castrated, killed. All in the name of ‘mental health,’” he wrote in March 1969.

Sources:
[1] Baker Act Reporting Center https://www.usf.edu/cbcs/baker-act/documents/ba_usf_annual_report_2018_2019.pdf
[2] Florida Supreme Court Baker Act Summary https://www.floridasupremecourt.org/content/download/242846/file/BakerSummary.pdf
[3] Long-Term Care Facilities – Florida Department of Children and Families https://www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/samh/crisis-services/laws/LongTermCareFacilities.pdf
[4] Get the Facts on Elder Abuse https://www.ncoa.org/article/get-the-facts-on-elder-abuse
[5] Florida Supreme Court Baker Act Summary https://www.floridasupremecourt.org/content/download/242846/file/BakerSummary.pdf
[6] Ibid.
[7] Florida lawmakers strengthened punishments for abuse of elders, disabled https://www.tampabay.com/news/florida-politics/2021/05/04/florida-lawmakers-strengthened-punishments-for-abuse-of-elders-disabled/

Diane Stein
Citizens Commission on Human Rights of Florida
+1 727-422-8820
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