Reworked Baker and Marchman acts bill unanimously clears House Health Committee

Reworked Baker and Marchman acts bill unanimously clears House Health Committee

Rep. Patt Maney

Florida representatives from the House Health and Human Services Committee on February 15 had no questions for their colleague, Rep. Patt Maney, R-Shalimar, on his rewrite of a sweeping mental health and substance abuse bill, HB 7021, before passing it unanimously.

But they had several nice things to say about the updated measure that seeks to streamline the court procedures for involuntarily committing a person for mental health and substance abuse treatment under the Baker and Marchman acts, respectively, as well as increase patient access to those services.

Rep. Ralph Massullo, a Republican and physician from Lecanto, for instance, praised Maney’s work.

“Judge, General, Representative Maney, this has been a passion of yours since I think the first day that you walked through the doors of the Capitol,” Massullo said.

Maney, a retired Okaloosa County judge, was first elected to the House in 2020.

“And I remember when I was in your place, and you were in a similar seat here. And I was presenting a bill on Baker Act… and even then, your passion for trying to move this issue that you had had personal experience in your role as a judge… It was commendable,” Massullo said.

He added: “And I know you’ve worked extremely hard on this bill and there’s a lot of details in it; extremely full of details that will make life better for those individuals with mental health issues, their families, [and] the providers.”

The bill has already undergone edits – the previous version was a committee substitute and even after this rewrite, Maney said he expects there to be even more changes before the measure gets presented to the full House.

“This is not the final bill,” Maney said during his closing statement. “I’ve had people call with suggestions in the last 48 hours and it was just too late in the process to consider those, but we will take them seriously.”

Maney also said he expected further adjustments in the future should his bill become law.

“There are other things we’ll have to deal with in the coming year or two that are all part of this problem,” Maney said. “This is a very complex system and a complex problem. And I intend, with your help, to keep working on those issues.”

Here are some of the revisions between Maney’s strike-all that he presented on February 15 and the previous committee substitute approved by the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee on January 24:

  • The rewrite creates an Office of Children’s Behavioral Health Ombudsman within the Department of Children and Families to become “a central point to receive complaints on behalf of children and adolescents with behavioral health disorders receiving state-funded services and use such information to improve” their “mental health and treatment support system.”
  • The rewrite authorizes psychiatric nurses who are working with psychiatrists to obtain consent for treatment from a patient’s guardian advocate, document a voluntary patient’s clinical record, order emergency treatment, and recommend involuntary services.
  • The rewrite requires the department and the Agency for Health Care Administration to provide data on children who undergo involuntary examinations and adults who are high users of crisis stabilization services to the Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute within the University of South Florida. The institute will analyze the data for trends and recommend how to improve child services and avoid repeat adult admissions. Previously, this was the purview of the state department and agency.
  • The rewrite demands that for patients to qualify for involuntary outpatient treatment, they “must be supported” by a social worker, case manager or a “willing, able, and responsible individual appointed by the court who shall inform the court and parties if the respondent fails to comply with his or her outpatient program.”

Barney Bishop with the Florida Smart Justice Alliance, an organization seeking criminal justice reform, said in the Health and Human Services Committee that the most recent version was “a great bill.”

“It’s not perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction,” Bishop said. “It’s very important for this to happen now because mental health issues are becoming a more serious issue day by day.”

Read our story on the Senate companion, SB1784.

Read our first write-up of Rep. Maney’s bill.

Originally published at

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