By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
In September 2019, a report on an investigation by The Tampa Bay Times stated that a North Tampa psychiatric hospital might be more harmful than helpful to its patients. The Tampa Bay Times claimed the health facility exploited patients held under the state’s mental health law known as the Baker Act. The Baker Act allows the involuntary confinement of a person in a mental health facility for a limited period of time if that person presents a threat to himself or to others; however, there are many limitations on this and rights that such persons have. The center has routinely held patients inappropriately against their will, making millions of dollars in the process, the newspaper reported.
After analyzing hospital records, police reports, court records, and interviews with former patients, the Tampa Bay Times was able to show that the hospital tricked or used coercive methods to keep patients locked up. Additionally, some patients described getting virtually no psychiatric treatment while admitted, according to the story.
Violations of The Baker Act.
Patients are often checked in for 72 hours the Baker Act, the Florida law that allows mental health centers to detain patients who are at risk of self-harm. The 72 hour period is to allow time for psychiatrists to evaluate the patient to see if the patient meets criteria to be confin3ed beyond the 72 hours. After 72 hours, unless a psychiatrist has found otherwise, facilities cannot legally hold patients against their will.
Despite the law, the Florida psych hospital allegedly used loopholes in the statute to hold patients longer than the law permits, thereby running up their hospital treatment bills, according to the report. The investigation exposed that the hospital uses a variety of tactics to keep patients beyond 72 hours. Some patients were tricked into thinking they had waived their right to leave the facility. Others were forced to wait around for court hearings that never happened. The extended stays were proven to be very lucrative to the facility named in the news report. It reportedly had the fourth-highest profit margin of any Florida psychiatric hospital in 2017.
Following the investigation by the Tampa Bay Times, Florida lawmakers are now calling for government regulators to further investigate the facility. Click here for more information, including a letter sent by a state representative to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
For more information on the Baker Act law, click here to read one of my prior blogs.
Click here to visit our Areas of Practice page on our website and learn more about specific Baker Act cases and how we can assist you in these matters.
Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Victims of Involuntary Confinement Through the Baker Act and Marchman Act.
The Health Law Firm represents individuals, families and friends in challenges to and hearings related to the Florida Baker Act and Marchman Act, when the basic criteria for confinement are not met and there is no medical necessity for further confinement.
Our firm has a process we follow to make sure that a person who should not be held under the Baker Act may be released in a very short time. If the basic criteria for a Baker Act confinement are not present, the person is not required to be held and should be released. If the person has been living independently for decades, has family and a support system available, and has had no prior mental health problems, the odds are he or she should not be involuntarily confined. We act immediately to begin our representation, to make the hospital and its physicians aware that we are representing you, and to take measures to obtain release. If required, we are prepared to file an emergency Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus with the local Circuit Court to have you brought before the judge for an emergency release hearing. These cases can be time-intensive, require a great deal of immediate work, but can yield fast results in most cases.
To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
Bedi, Neil. “How one Florida psychiatric hospital makes millions off patients who have no choice.” Tampa Bay Times. (September 18, 2019). Web.
Harnes, Anna. “Florida Psych Hospital Holds Patients Captive To Make Millions In ‘Shocking’ Report.” Inquisitr. (September 21, 2019). Web.
Bedi, Neil. “Lawmakers call for investigations into Wesley Chapel psychiatric hospital.” Tampa Bay Times. (October 7, 2019). Web.
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
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