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Alachua County has seen a jump in involuntary examinations in children, according to a University of South Florida report.The jump follows a statewide trend of increased Baker Act cases, or cases of the Florida Mental Health Act, which allows to be held for involuntary examination up to 72 hours if they present a threat to themselves or others.The University of South Florida is home to the Baker Act Reporting Center, and its annual report for the 2015 2016 fiscal year shows more instancesBaker Acts in Alachua County grew 8.27 percent to the fiscal year ending in 2016 from the one ending in 2015, despite an overall population growth of 1.22 percent.In the 2015 2016 fiscal year, 500 children were Baker Acted, rising 16 percent from 2014 2015 431 and 385 in 2013 2014.Maggie Labarta, president and CEO of Meridian Behavioral Health Care, said she wasn surprised by the higher numbers, saying it represented an increase in mental illness awareness.have a broader societal awareness, she said. talking about it. who are Baker Acted often don recognize they need help because their symptoms don always include physical discomfort or pain.is the mind, it is the brain that is impaired, Labarta said.Children specifically are still learning how to express themselves, which can lead to more confusion during a crisis.Children aren as self observant as adults are and can identify their thought process or mood, their behavior can appear unregulated,
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Labarta said. Parents or other adults don always know how to handle it.Overstimulation in children can become chronic, especially when children can process what happening. Labarta said Meridian works to teach parents how to teach their children how to draw boundaries and to self soothe. It also encourages parents to teach their children how to withdraw from stimuli and how to express their needs.The youngest patient Labarta has seen Baker Acted was 2 years old, although she said it possible it could have been an official overreaction to a tantrum. About 2 percent of Meridian 19,000 patients statewide are 5 years old or younger.That age range is particularly significant in a person development.much development and so much of the building blocks to what come later are developed in 0 5, she said.Each time a child learns to manage itself or its environment, that lesson becomes a tool. A lack of management and mastery becomes an impairment.Without self management skills, Labarta said, navigating through life can be like trying to do algebra when you only know how to add.UF Health Shands Psychiatric Hospital and Gainesville Meridian Behavioral Health Care receive the most Baker Act patients, according to USF report. UF received 43.44 percent of patients, and Meridian received 31.87 percent.The two also see the majority of Baker Acted patients in Bradford, Dixie, Gilchrist and Levy counties.Labarta said more Alachua County law enforcement officers have gone through crisis intervention training and more county residents have gone through mental health first aid training, both of which are programs that teach individuals how to respond when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis.If law enforcement officers respond to an incident and believe a person is mentally unwell, they can use the Baker Act to evaluate whether the individual needs help.rather see them Baker Acted than arrested, Labarta said.And people being treated after being Baker Acted is better than people receiving no treatment at all, she said.
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