The Tampa Bay Times has a disturbing report about a local mental health institution, North Tampa Behavioral Health, and its alleged habit of keeping them as long as possible - whether they need it or not.
More than two thousand people arrive each year at North Tampa Behavioral Health in extreme crisis.
They are checked in under a state law that lets mental health centers keep people who might hurt themselves or others for up to 72 hours.
But when that time is over, some patients find themselves held captive by the place that is supposed to protect them.
Priya Sarran-Persad had a psychologist threaten to commit her a second time if she didn’t volunteer to stay longer. Michael Jenkins hired a lawyer to help him get out but couldn’t for a week because the hospital never sent his paperwork to a judge. Robert Allen was held an extra three days for not participating in group therapy. His family was stunned. Allen is deaf and wasn’t given his hearing aids.
Each night they stayed, more money flowed into the psychiatric hospital.
A Tampa Bay Times investigation has found that North Tampa Behavioral makes huge profits by exploiting patients held under Florida’s mental health law, known as the Baker Act.
The hospital illegally cuts patients off from their families. Then it uses loopholes in the statute to hold them longer than allowed, running up their bills while they are powerless to fight back.
Some patients describe getting virtually no psychiatric treatment. Meanwhile, people at risk of suicide have been allowed to hurt themselves, and helpless patients have been attacked on the ward.
For this, the hospital charges up to $1,500 per night.
There's more at the link.
The Tampa Bay Times has already established quite a reputation for investigative journalism, such as its list of the 50 worst charities in America. This latest article is apparently the first in an occasional series about Florida's mental health issues. I'll look forward to reading the others as they come out.
The thing is, this isn't just important for Florida readers. This sort of heavy-handed state intervention, handing authority over patients to care providers, is already being promoted elsewhere. (It's eye-opening to see that many of those supporting it are health care providers like hospitals and clinics. The reason for their support is obvious - they stand to make money out of it.) The consequences can be disastrous. Not only are jobs and (potentially) relationships at risk, but there are legal implications. Mental health issues can directly affect your right to keep and bear arms. If you're involuntarily committed for mental health treatment, that may result in you losing that right.
I recommend you read the whole article, and think about the laws where you live. It might be worthwhile to see whether a local equivalent of Florida's Baker Act is being proposed, and if so, who's pushing for it. Gun-owners in particular may want to be wary about it, and possibly organize against it if their rights are not sufficiently protected.