Baker Act exams for children on the rise in Florida, new study shows

ORLANDO, Fla. — It’s a sobering sign of Florida’s mental health crisis among children.


According to a new study by the University of South Florida, more children than ever are being Baker Acted.

While the total number of Baker Act exams performed on adults in Florida is down, many of the involuntary mental health exams were done on children during fiscal year 2020-2021 than ever before.

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The number of involuntary psychiatric exams on children exceed 38,000, an increase of 77% in just the past decade, equivalent to an average of more than 100 children a day who, in one year, underwent mental health exams against their will in Florida.

According to the report, the highest number of exams on children during that time period occurred among white girls between the ages of 11 and 14.

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See a county breakdown of involuntary exams in 2021 below:

  • Lake: 1,393
  • Osceola: 1,362
  • Marion: 2,363
  • Brevard: 3,352
  • Volusia: 4,000
  • Orange: 5,441

In the previous year, USF’s Baker Act Reporting Center logged its first-ever decrease in Baker Act exams among children since the state started tracking the numbers more than a decade ago.

However, experts chalked it up to an anomaly from a year dominated by COVID-19 shutdowns, school closures and distance learning.

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Shannon Butler

Shannon Butler, WFTV.com

Shannon joined the Eyewitness News team in 2013.

Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.