CCHR: Baker Act Abuse of the Elderly Still a Problem, Greater Protection Needed

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

The Baker Acting of the elderly is not a new problem. In 1995 the media reported that approximately two-thirds of the people taken into custody for involuntary examination in Pinellas County during 1993/1994 were seniors and public testimony before the Florida Legislature revealed that many elders fared poorly and some even died during or shortly after their hospitalization under the Baker Act. [2]

In 1996, members of the Florida Legislature overhauled the Baker Act due to some nursing homes and assisted living facilities 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]

According to the National Council on Aging, “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]

This abuse includes instances of mental health human rights abuse, sometimes for profit. In the 1990’s the Florida Supreme Court published a summary on the use of the Baker Act, 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]

Unfortunately, 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]

An Advanced Mental Health Directive (AMHD) is a little-known resource that can be used by individuals to protect their rights if they become incompetent to make decisions. Known as a “Declaration”, Florida law allows a person to write instructions on what if any mental health care they wish to receive including hospitalization, psychiatric drugs, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and experimental procedures. [8]

According to Federal Medicare records, over 20,000 Americans received electroshock in 2014 under Medicare, which Americans are eligible for when they reach 65 years of age. Of interest is that the percentage of elderly receiving ECT jumps dramatically for those who are eligible for Medicare from 3.4% of those under the age of 65 years receiving ECT to 15.6% for those 65 years of age and older. [9,10]

“The Citizens Commission on Human Rights, CCHR, is bringing attention to the subject of elder abuse under the mental health law, especially the unnecessary involuntary psychiatric examination of seniors as well as the use of ECT on vulnerable adults,” stated Diane Stein, President of CCHR in Florida. “We work to educate people on their rights and how a declaration can protect them from unwanted and even dangerous psychiatric drugs and procedures.”

In addition to providing citizens with copies of Psychiatric Living Wills, 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.

Sources:

[1] Baker Act Reporting Center: usf.edu/cbcs/baker-act/documents/ba_usf_annual_report_2018_2019.pdf

[2] Florida Supreme Court Baker Act Summary: floridasupremecourt.org/content/download/242846/file/BakerSummary.pdf

[3] Long-Term Care Facilities – Florida Department of Children and Families: myflfamilies.com/service-programs/samh/crisis-services/laws/LongTermCareFacilities.pdf

[4] Get the Facts on Elder Abuse: ncoa.org/article/get-the-facts-on-elder-abuse

[5] Florida Supreme Court Baker Act Summary: floridasupremecourt.org/content/download/242846/file/BakerSummary.pdf

[6] Ibid.

[7] Florida lawmakers strengthened punishments for abuse of elders, disabled: tampabay.com/news/florida-politics/2021/05/04/florida-lawmakers-strengthened-punishments-for-abuse-of-elders-disabled/

[8] Psychiatric Advanced Directives in Florida: nrc-pad.org/states/florida-faq

[9] Petition to Ban ECT Device use on Elderly: change.org/p/ban-electroshock-ect-device-being-used-on-children-the-elderly-and-vulnerable-patients

[10] Variation in ECT use in the United States: researchgate.net/publication/15444308_Variation_in_ECT_use_in_the_United_States

Citizens Commission on Human Rights of Florida
Citizens Commission on Human Rights of Florida
http://www.cchrflorida.org/
[email protected]
+1-727-442-8820
109 North Fort Harrison Avenue

Clearwater
United States

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Ana Curtis is the most renowned for her short stories. She attined his degree in literature from Oxford University.  She writes stories as well as news related to the technology. She wrote number of books in his five years career.she works as a Editor of News Cubvick Mail.