ABC7 Roundtable Featuring Lt. Charlie Kenniff
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ABC7 Roundtable Featuring Lt. Charlie Kenniff

welcome back how often is the Baker Act
used here on the Suncoast during the last fiscal year more than 3,500
involuntary examinations would done in sarasota up more than 70 percent from
just four years ago six hundred and seventy seven of those Baker acts were
for minors Manatee County also had 527 involuntary exams of minors last year
statewide the numbers of minors Baker acted has increased fifty percent over
the past five years joining us for more on this trend is lieutenant Charles
Kenneth of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office he oversees crisis intervention
training for the entire County Judge Erica Quartermaine of the 12 Judicial
Circuit Court and dr. Robert Friedman formerly a professor emeritus at the
Louis de la parte Florida Mental Health Institute at USF I should say you’re
still a professor emeritus and Bob I wanted to start with you because people
hear that number a 50% increase in youngsters being Baker Act and then they
don’t know what to make of it are there more kids who need that kind of acute
help or is it the way we compose these numbers or what it’s it’s hard to tell
what’s for sure is that there are many young people in distress and many
families and young people not getting the kind of help and support that they
need then they’re used to being over the years there certainly has been an
increase in that there’s been a many reasons changes in family composition
families have disintegrated there’s been an increase in youngsters exposed to
trauma for a variety of reasons there’s a higher prevalence there’s no
indication however while there’s been a generally increase in prevalence there’s
no indication that over the past five years there’s been a five 50 percent
increase in prevalence when you see a number like that it makes you wonder are
there some policy changes or this and those services that are not available
are we now becoming more aware of the problems are we taking problems that
were treated as school problems before or or legal problems and now treating
them within the mental health system there’s something going on when I see
numbers like that other than an increase in the actual prevalence of 50%
begs the question is law enforcement more attuned to responding to these
incidents in a certain way or have new rules and procedures been put into
effect that results in increased cases and it has there been the change in in
terms of how the courts handle these things in Luton I’ll start with you well
I think law enforcement is more in tune with the needs of the community as you
mentioned dummy League crisis intervention team training coordinator
for Sarasota County and more law enforcement are now willing to look a
little deeper and find out whether or not the behaviors that they’re in
counting might be tied into an underlying mental illness and properly
try and direct those persons with mental illness keep them out of the jail out of
the court system and get them the help they need and that’s especially true
when we were dealing with juveniles and Your Honor this winds up basically on
your desk and have you have you noticed this increase and and what do you think
when you see these cases come before you desk
well our jurisdiction uses a Baker Act magistrate so while I do see parts of
these cases I do not see enough of them to say but the numbers speak for
themselves we have to first understand what the Baker Act is and what it is not
and it is a law that is directed at those individuals who are an imminent
threat to themselves or others being suicidal homicidal or totally unable to
care for oneself so it is really reserved for a small number of those who
are mentally ill because and let me be clear here
it could get into the courts in two different ways whether if law
enforcement responds to a situation and takes its action but there there are
many cases and I have seen this where families go to court because they have
concerns about a loved one and yes that can occur so there are three ways it can
be initiated by law enforcement it can be initiated by a mental health
professional like a doctor or a counselor and it can be initiated by a
family member through an ex parte proceeding but those ex parte
proceedings are relish small we can see they’re less than 3%
the majority of them now and we see a shift in it is those that are initiated
by law enforcement let me clarify the data that we’re referring to is the
number of youngsters for whom a involuntary exam was initiated when we
say Baker acted we tend to think of youngsters who were actually played and
seemed to need the involuntary placement and placed what we’re looking at we
don’t have data on precisely how many of those there are what we have data on how
many are four how many are involuntary exams initiated right and let’s also
just you know let people know this data is is put together by the Louis tell
apart mental health program at USF which you’ve been associated with for many
years and then it is given to the stage for what purposes well the Baker Act
Reporting Center is based at the Florida Mental Health Institute Florida is one
of the few states that has that gathers data and it’s it’s provided to the
states for them to monitor how well the program is functioning however it is
basically data on the number of exams that are initiated we don’t know a lot
about the youngsters who were there or what their needs are we you know to know
why there’s such an increase we would need to know more about the youngsters
and how they came to be initiated right so as you say the data is only good as
its how its gathered and you you believe that there was a variation within
Florida in terms of counties that do a good job and maybe not so good job at
gathering it well there’s a lot of variation for County to County in the
percentage of youngsters who end up with initiation and that’s to be expected
Florida launched a diverse state they’re about half the counties in Florida do
not even have a Baker Act receiving facility there when you don’t have it
there then you’re less likely to have referrals made because it’s a much
bigger effort to transport them to a to another County right but lieutenant we
you have only about a minute left in the section we have seen here in in
sarasota county uh forty two point fifty three percent increase in the number of
youngsters Baker acted are you confident in those numbers or what does the the
county do in terms of to get an adequate read of what’s going on here well I
think the confidence in the numbers is a unquantifiable statement as far as its
concerned the Sarasota County Health Department tracks those numbers Sarasota
County is a I hate to say it we’re striving to be a good place to be
mentally ill we have several organizations within the county
Department of Behavioral Healthcare consortium and the acute care task force
and we have a behavioral health care policy coordinator that gets these
information and puts it out so that we can see the scope full scope of the
problem and they meet quarterly throughout the year we are just getting
going on this discussion of the Baker Act coming up along with our checkup or
weather forecasts we’ll be back in just a moment welcome back tonight we were discussing
the Baker Act and its increasing use in Florida particularly with minors our
guest tonight the lieutenant Charles can F of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s
Office judge Erica Quartermaine and dr. Robert Friedman formerly of the luis de
la parte Florida Mental Health Institute at USF which oversees the Baker Act
Reporting Center one of the stunning numbers that I hear about all the time
is that Florida ranks 49th in the entire country in terms of funding mental
health issues and my question to all of you right now beginning with your honor
is whether you see the lack of resources for families and individuals who need
this kind of help basically being part of the problem I definitely believe
that’s part of the problem historically although we have as a community come
together to make changes for the future you can liken this issue to a health
issue like kidney failure you can provide ongoing dialysis or you
cannot provide it and that individual goes into kidney failure and a crisis
environment so when you fail to provide the ongoing wraparound services for
serious mental health illnesses then you will see an individual go into a crisis
stabilization unit it is not only more expensive to deal with it that way it is
very traumatic for the person to continue to go into these types of
episodes so we have to look at it as a whole and we have to provide treatment
on a continuum so there is a lot of movement within our community to do that
and I believe there was some short-sighted decisions made decades ago
that are now catching up with us in the form of increased crisis
stabilization and homelessness to name two who were seeing that every day on
the streets of Sarasota but you know the question becomes and and I’ve been to
the dela part Center and at USF and I know this is a real issue there what
what kind of effort has there been to lobby state legislators
to change this if it’s having such a huge impact here in Florida well there’s
been an increase in advocacy for mental health services in general however it
hasn’t had the impact there needs to have we need more funding for mental
health services for sure and as as the judge points out it ends up then that
you put some that kids and families don’t get the supports and services I
need to keep them at home instead they go into more expensive placements that
are not effective there’s no research to support that this is that these
hospitalizations are effective for the youngsters of course it needed in some
cases but they cost and or not and then the money’s not there for the for the
services in the community to keep the families together and to keep the
youngsters from needing this so at some point there has to be a planning process
that I’m delighted to hear there is a planning process beginning but there has
to be a planning process to look at how do we shift what we’re doing how do we
begin to put more resources into the community and into the wraparound
services and into a range of crisis services if we want because crisis occur
but as the best communities have five or six different options in dealing with
them and they work together to deal with them well first of all your honor have
your colleagues in the judiciary tried to lobby you local legislators that
something has to be done something’s got to give
yes I mean I met with the legislature a year or so ago asking just for more
money period but there are a lot of competing interests in the legislature
where we have been effective is through grants and the generous donations of
local philanthropies the city and the county so it’s been a an approach
requiring a lot of entities to move it forward
and Lieutenant you wanted to make that point that here in Sarasota there are
community resources out not only for individuals who need the help but also
the families of the individuals absolutely one of the organization’s
that’s prevalent in Sarasota is now me the National Alliance on Mental Illness
and Nami at its core is a volunteer grassroots organization who are looking
to take care of the people that are suffering
and the caregivers and their families around that and just provide them a
little bit of comfort to let them know that they’re not out on an island all by
themselves okay what is being done out there in terms of studies locally or
regionally that would give us a better read in terms of why this is happening
now and what direction we should take well there is a great study that was
done by Sarasota County and it’s called behavioral health acute care system data
review it was an analysis of six months of crisis stabilization expenses within
the county and it was done really well and I think one of the pieces that I can
take from it that add to the dela part a study which recognizes its own
limitations ie we don’t know how many people are
actually that sick and how many people are getting treatment but in the county
study it tells us that there are over a period of six months there were 41
individuals in Sarasota County who received crisis stabilization services
either Baker actor Marchman at six times in a period of six months so now even
though there are a significant number of them when you dig deeper that’s 240 that
are just from 41 people then there’s an additional almost 300 people who were
using those services three times so the bottom line Bob is does that mean that
there’s a lack of a comprehensive approach maybe in Florida in general
about what to do in situations like this Florida has been moving towards a
comprehensive system of care children often a neglected part of the of the
Mental Health System matthan adults have enough resources but for children it’s
the problem is is even greater we know for example that more children are refer
our initiated for examination when school is in session there’s fewer when
it’s the summertime there’s fewer on the weekend and we know that there are
evidence-based interventions to use in the schools that make a difference for
for kids and their families in the schools are we using them to the extent
there’s a number of evidence-based interventions that didn’t exist frankly
10 20 25 years ago for children and families and
one has to take a look at how well we’re doing and using them we have less than a
minute left but is are all schools and and faculty and staff trained the same
way in terms of handling situations and and with school resource officers are
they all trained the same way to see a problem and deal with it effectively
Sheriff Tom Knight is a big supporter of the Memphis model in a crisis
intervention team training and we’ve get it out to all of the deputies include
the school resource officers and to that end one of the things that we need to
bear in mind again Sarasota County is very progressive in its response the
Jewish Family and Children’s Services have a crisis response team that deals
with and does follow-ups on the children that are taken into protective custody
by the Baker Act many of them from school to try and follow up with them
afterwards to see how they’re doing and get them get hopefully get to the root
of the problem and get them in the right direction I think we have to take
another quick break but when we return we’ll have final thoughts from our
guests plus what some of our viewers are saying about funding for Planned
Parenthood stay with us welcome back over the past five years the number of
children who have been involuntary examined under the Baker Act has
increased by fifty percent statewide we have seen that increase right here on
the Suncoast as well what should we make of these changes our guest joining us
right now for final thoughts and Lieutenant what do you think viewers
should should take away from this I think viewers should understand is that
law enforcement responds when the crisis situation is occurring and the resources
available with the both the person and their loved ones their caregivers the
family have been overwhelmed law enforcement is not going to take the
loved one into protective custody unless the criteria is met and sometimes people
don’t understand that and that’s very difficult to get across as a lot of
times the family and the caregivers understand that if Charlie is having a
bad day what’s gonna happen potentially but we can’t always act on what they
know is going to happen potentially so we have to go with what we’ve got there
and I’d like to get that out and also understand is that the training that the
sheriff supports we’re looking to slow the situation down and and err on the
side of caution and take someone into protective custody to get them the help
they need because we don’t have that of who they are and what they’ve done
and your honor I’ve seen this and when it gets to the court that if some
families may be seeking help for their loved one but if it doesn’t meet those
parameters it’s not going to happen in terms of involuntary Baker Act that’s
correct but you also see the family come forth in criminal cases where there is
sort of a desperation because there are no services available and now this sick
person has ended up in a the criminal justice system and that’s the one of the
saddest thing tonight and Bob one of the the most frightening part of what you
have said is that there in terms of the increased pressures on our youngsters
and our youth them that they’re dealing more now with things more now than than
in the past absolutely absolutely yeah I just want
to say that it’s unfortunate that in Florida and across the country we
continue to put a disproportionate amount of resources and attention on the
the crisis stage and on residential care on expensive interventions that have not
been proven to work there and to the extent that we continue to put a
disproportionate amount of resources there we’re ensuring that the youngsters
and families are not going to get the supports for when the problems first
develop when they’re still young when they’re more amenable to effective
intervention we’re ensuring that the problems are not going to get better but
are only going to get worse over time but we live in tight budgetary times and
people only really spend money when it’s crisis
well I’m encouraged that Sarasota is taking a look at a system and hopefully
we’ll be able to do better I’m encouraged that even our data show that
there’s been that the seven counties in Florida that had the highest rate of
examinations involuntary examinations all went down in the past year so whoa
there’s been a big increase over five years it seems to have stabilized and
seems to be even getting a little bit better if you’d like to join the
conversation about tonight’s topic just visit our Facebook page at
slash News at 7:00 and FYI want to watch past roundtable discussions they’re
available on Apple TV Amazon fire and Roku thanks to our guests for being here
tonight lieutenant Charles Kenneth oversees crisis intervention team
training for the Sarasota County Law Enforcement judge Erik of Quartermaine
is a county judge for the 12th Judicial Circuit Court and
to Robert Freeman is the former professor is a professor emeritus for
the luis de la parte Florida Mental Health Institute at the University at
South Florida

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