Mental Health: Law enforcement officers are Baker Acting people at alarming rates

LAKELAND — In the last year, a grand jury described Florida's mental illness treatment system as “a sad state” and one that has “urgent problems."

In Polk County, mental health treatment stakeholders finished a year-long study recently that shows one in seven of your friends, neighbors and co-workers indicate that they live with depression or are otherwise at risk for behavioral health challenges.

Law enforcement officials have become the front line in the battle with mental illness.

More in this series: Law enforcement officers are first line of defense in war against 'invisible enemy'

And: After personal struggles, criminology professor advocates for decriminalizing mental illness

Want to learn more?: Mental health in Polk County and Florida: Read every story in our series

According to the University of South Florida Baker Act Reporting Center website:

• Florida's population has increased by about 22% to 21.5 million people.

• Baker Acts have skyrocketed by 121%

• 2001-2002 - 95,574 people

• 2018-2019 - 210,992 people

Baker Act statistics for juveniles are even more alarming:

• Increased by 152%

• 2001-2002 - 15,000 children

• 2018-2019 - 37,900 children

Law enforcement officials and physicians were the main initiators of Baker Acts, which allow patients to be evaluated for up to three days. It can be extended by a judge.

• 51% initiated by law enforcement;

• 46 initiated by a physician, clinical psychologist, psychiatric nurse, mental health counselor, marriage and family therapist, or clinical social worker;

• 3% were done via ex parte order, which can be filed by anyone who has observed the mentally ill behavior and can describe the actions.

In the last 10 years, the total number of people Baker Acted in Polk County has increased by more than 50%:

• 2009-2010 - 5,588 people

• 2018-2019 - 8,407 people

Juveniles Baker Acted in the last decade has doubled:

• 2009-2010 - 1,009 children

• 2018-2019 - 1,999 children

Read the full story: Mental Health: Law enforcement officers are first line of defense in war against 'invisible enemy'

To get help

Polk County’s Peace River Center offers a 24-Hour Emotional Support and Crisis Line: 863-519-3744 or toll-free at 800-627-5906.

Ledger reporter Kimberly C. Moore can be reached at or 863-802-7514. Follow her on Twitter at @KMooreTheLedger.

This article originally appeared on The Ledger: Mental Health: Florida Baker Acts skyrocketed by 121%