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Florida House Passes Bill Modernizing Florida's Baker and Marchman Acts

Today, the Florida House of Representatives voted unanimously in favor of CS/CS/HB 7021 - Mental Health and Substance Abuse, a bill aimed to significantly modernize Florida’s Baker and Marchman Acts, improving the navigation, service delivery and expected outcomes of the state’s mental health system. Thanks to the championship of State Representative Patt Maney and leadership of House Speaker Paul Renner, the major improvements would be the first made to the Acts in 53 years and 30 years, respectively. 

Unanimously approved in each assigned committee stop, and voted favorably with a unanimous 111 yeas and 0 nays of the Florida House, HB 7021 would modernize standards for involuntary mental health treatment services, broaden the definition of licensed medical practitioners qualified to provide care, and refine the responsibilities of county courts in a collaborative effort to reduce recidivism, improve access to care, and increase the efficiency of mental health service delivery. The modernization bill would be supported by a $50 million appropriation. 

“Persistence surely does pay off,” said State Representative Patt Maney - HD4. “After four years in office pursuing these improvements, I am delighted that my colleagues are just as determined as I to see this good legislation implemented. We need to shore up our Baker and Marchman Acts to reflect today’s needs. Florida’s families deserve the kinds of warm hand-offs in care and positive outcomes in stabilization and treatment when their loved ones are assessed for mental health needs. Especially post-pandemic, our mental health is too important to ignore. This comprehensive bill is a great stepping stone to even greater improvements to come. I am eternally grateful to House Speaker Renner, Senate President Passidomo and Governor DeSantis for encouraging the systemic modernization of these critical treatment laws so that we can do right by those experiencing mental health crises in our fair State of Florida.”  

Highlights of the bill include: 
- Improving public safety, protecting individual liberty, improving treatment outcomes, and improving efficient use of taxpayer resources, 
- Allowing law enforcement discretion whether to initiate an involuntary mental health evaluation, 
- Allowing physician assistants and APRNs to practice in psychiatric settings for physical healthcare within their scope of practice, 
- Revising standards for testimony to ease the court’s receipt of additional information, such as allowing testimony via telecommunications and providing new opportunity for family testimony, 
- Requiring only one petition rather than the current two petition process for Marchman Act evaluations and treatment, 
- Allowing the court more authority to determine types of involuntary services ordered, 
- Requiring data collection and analysis to be posted to DCF’s website, 
- Aligning differing processes/criteria/standards under the Baker Act and Marchman Act. 

The Senate companion bill SB 1784, sponsored by State Senator Erin Grall, is expected to come to before the Florida Senate for a vote imminently before going to the Governor’s desk for his signature into law. 

Commonly known as the “Baker Act,” the Florida Mental Health Act of 1971 allows for short-term inpatient involuntary and voluntary examination, inpatient involuntary and voluntary admission of an individual for assessment and treatment of mental illness, and involuntary outpatient treatment for mental illness. Commonly known as the “Marchman Act,” the Hal S. Marchman Alcohol and Other Drug Services Act of 1993 allows for the involuntary and voluntary assessment, stabilization and treatment of an individual allegedly abusing alcohol or drugs. 

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