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One Suicide, 10 Baker Acts: New Year Weekend’s Mental Health Toll Taxes Flagler Deputies

| January 3, 2018

Craig Laing, a Bunnell resident who took his life on Dec. 31 or Jan. 1, in an image from his Facebook page.

Craig Laing, a Bunnell resident who took his life on Dec. 31 or Jan. 1, in an image from his Facebook page.

For Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies, it was not a quiet holiday weekend: there was the odd case of a man seeking to electrocute his wife, a simple traffic stop that ended in the re-arrest on numerous charges of a young felon freshly out of state prison, a car chase that resulted in the arrest of two juveniles, one of whom alleged to be a repeat offender keen on car thefts.

And because it was a holiday weekend and New Year’s Eve, there was a lot of drinking, therefore a lot of drunk driving arrests: nine in all by sheriff’s deputies alone, with a total of 1,249 traffic stops (not counting stops by the Florida Highway Patrol and the county’s two police departments).

For all that, there were no actual violent crimes reported aside from the unceasing number of domestic violence cases and subsequent arrests of alleged perpetrators who seem to have no more regard for their victims than they do the calendar.

But there was a distinctive spike in the sort of policing deputies are least equipped to handle, but have been handling with increasing frequency over the years because no one else will even though such cases take deputies out of their beats and often out of the county: Mental health issues and Baker Acts, the usually involuntary psychiatric confinement of individuals who threaten to harm themselves or others.

There were 10 such Baker Acts over the four-day holiday weekend, an unusually high number. And there was one suicide, capping a year that saw one of the highest (but not the highest) number of suicides in the county’s history. 

Baker Acts are a reflection of the county’s needs for mental health services, needs that are largely unmet despite recurring calls by county, police and mental health officials to improve matters. These same officials, who gather monthly at the Public Safety Coordinating Council, have made mental health a priority in recent months. But mental health services are driven in large part by state funds, which have been scarce.

There’s been some local improvements, at least in matters of process, if not quite in actual services: thanks to a grant and starting three years ago year, deputies have been able to bring their Baker Act wards to Bunnell’s Vince Carter Sanctuary, where Stewart Machman Behavioral Health has a so-called Crisis Triage and Treatment Unit (CTTU), from where individuals are then either treated, released, or taken to Halifax hospital’s psychiatric unit for further observation. Until then, deputies were required to drive individuals to Halifax every time, thus pulling them out of their beat for several hours. They still have to do that at certain times.

Local officials often talk of mental health issues and numbers in the abstract. The weekend’s numbers compel a closer look at the human toll behind the numbers. The following run-down of weekend incidents is a reflection of the variety of challenges deputies faced on the mental health beat, starting with the suicide.

Craig Laing’s ex-girlfriend knew something had gone wrong at his home at 153 Bimini Lane in Bunnell when she couldn’t hear Laing’s dog. Laing, 56, had made an electronic posting on New Year’s Eve that worried his mother: he was threatening to harm himself and his dog. His mother reached his ex-girlfriend and his most current girlfriend, imploring them both to check on him.

His ex had gone there with a friend, a 44-year-old resident of nearby Haw Creek Road. He managed to get into the house through the back kitchen window. He found Laing on his bed. A revolver was on the ground. Laing had apparently shot his dog, which was on the floor near him, then shot himself, according to the report.

After deputies surveyed the scene the department’s investigative division was called in, as was a crime scene investigator and, later, the medical examiner and a county animal control officer. Depending on when it took place—the sheriff’s report places the incident as happening anytime between the 31st and the 1st—it was either the 21st suicide of last year, or the first of 2018.

Laing had been living at the mobile home on Bimini Lane—owned by his mother since 2000—for many years.

On Dec. 28 around noon, a 17 year old upset over a driver’s license was angry enough to punch a hole through the wall at his grandmother’s Palm Coast house, prompting his grandmother to call authorities. He left the house, and it took deputies 40 minutes to search and find him, and Baker Acting him.

On Dec. 29 just after 5 p.m. a 19-year-old resident of Pleasant Lane in Palm Coast, who has a prior history of violence, was being physically violent toward his sister and cussing out his parents, who wanted him Baker Acted. He was refusing to take his prescribed medication and was threatening to harm family members, meeting the criteria for psychiatric confinement.

On Dec. 29 at 9:20 p.m., a 23-year-old resident of Renshaw Drive was Baker Acted after he initiated a call to 911: he was home alone, he said he was hearing voices telling him to hurt or hang himself, and he wanted help. When deputies arrived he told them he wished to be Baker Acted voluntarily. He was.

The morning of Dec. 30, before 7, 911 dispatchers received a call about a 30-year-old man who was “acting crazy.” The homeowners at a house on Bunnell’s Tangerine Avenue (in Daytona North, or the Mondex), had taken him in four or five months ago, but more recently the 30-year-old had been speaking of voices he was hearing in his head—voices to which he would then direct his threats. When deputies made contact with him, he was talking to himself and did not seem in control of his faculties (or of himself physically), continuing to make threats at the voices and to threaten to harm himself.

At 2 p.m. on Dec. 30 Flagler’s 911 dispatchers got a call about a 33-year-old woman in the area of Forest Park Street in Bunnell who was threatening to harm herself. According to her friend, who reported the issue to authorities, she’d said she was better off dead because no one cared about her, and she could just disappear. She had been extremely upset since her mother’s death, according to a deputy’s report on the incident. She herself denied making such statements, but due to her friend’s statements, she met the criteria for a Baker Act and was taken to the Vince Carter Sanctuary. On the way, she told a deputy that she had not had a meal in three days.

The same day at close to 7 p.m. a 23-year-old woman was reported by a business on State Road 100 in Palm Coast to be “asking everyone for a ride-then said she was having suicidal thoughts. She said she was homeless, living on the streets. She was Baker Acted.

Just before 8 p.m. a 46-year-old man on Palm Coast’s Ewing Place told deputies that he wanted medical assistance after suffering what he’d initially reported as a sever anxiety attack. He was on various medications and was taking then. But he then told a deputy that he’d previously had thoughts of harming himself. He was taken to Halifax hospital in Daytona Beach under Baker Act criteria just before 9 p.m.  

At close to 3 a.m. on New Year’s Eve, a 20-year-old Palm Coast man called 911 to report that he’d been assaulted by his mother, claiming she’d punched him and was keeping him from leaving the house. But after an investigation deputies concluded that no such violence had occurred, though the 20 year old was severely intoxicated. He would not say whether he had taken his medication with the alcohol. Deputies determined that he’d pose a threat to himself if he were not treated, and Baker Acted him.

Just before midnight and the new year, the 911 center got a report of a 13-year-old who’d left her house on foot. The caller was a parent who sounded intoxicated, according to dispatch notes. Deputies found the girl in the area of Belle Terre Parkway and Pine Lakes Parkway in palm Coast. She was uncooperative but not combative, though she made statements that led deputies to believe she could be a threat to herself. She was taken to Halifax hospital.

The evening of New Year’s Day, Walmart personnel reported to 911 that a 70-year-old woman had been in a store bathroom for two hours, drinking wine. Store personnel reported that she had been shoplifting items, and appeared very confused, but that they were not interested in pressing charges: the woman’s family members informed deputies that the woman could be in the beginning stages of dementia. She was secured and Baker Acted.

There were no Baker Acts in the first full 24-hour period after the end of the last shift on Jan. 1.

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21 Responses for “One Suicide, 10 Baker Acts: New Year Weekend’s Mental Health Toll Taxes Flagler Deputies”

  1. Veteran says:

    Why would you shot a harmless, unconditional loves giving animal?

  2. markingthedays says:

    Did that say 1,249 traffic stops? Surely that must be an error?

    • FlaglerLive says:

      Markingthedays, the figure is taken from this release issued by the sheriff’s office, keeping in mind–as the story should have clarified–that the period covered by the traffic enforcement stretched from Dec. 13 through the 31st, not just the long weekend.

  3. Yourstruly says:

    Mental Health? Or Addiction?… either way, more resources are needed and less of my tax money spent on these folks.

  4. Anon says:

    Palm Coast is a depressing black hole with lack of industry. In fact, if you name any market, real estate, retail, tourism, or name a place to work other than Mcdonalds. And you will find that Palm Coast surely lacks it. That is just the root of it. The city lacks facilities for these kinds of people to heal and get back on their feet. The depressing black hole of Palm Coast will be a graveyard of retired city workers given it is the cities largest employer. What kind of city has more people employed by the city itself? No wonder these 13 year old kids are having mental breakdowns, their parents are depressed, drunk, out of a job and upside down on their home, stuck in the rat race to nowhere. Enjoy your ride on our 20 mile long bike trail! Palm Coast has enough land to build 20 Giga factories courteous of Elon Musk but NOOOO, retirement community it is. But what kind of retirement community has no mental health centers? What kind of retirement community has an extremely limited amount of assisted living centers? Palm Coast. Palm Coast simply needs to change, and when the environment surrounding people changes, the people will change. If anyone on the board reads this (highly doubt) I have a little word of advice, next time Mercedes Benz and Fedex come knocking on your door to build factories and distribution centers to employ the whole town, approve it.

  5. MannyHMo says:

    It’s a good thing to know that they were promptly Baker Acted. Those wandering in this cold weather with clothing not proper for the weather should also be Baker Acted, for their own good.

  6. Brian says:

    Someone in the Mondex “acting crazy”? It can’t be – there must be some mistake!

  7. beachcomberT says:

    Thank you for a snapshot story that takes an in-depth look at the “routine” Baker Act calls that most media don’t even bother to report unless there is a homicide.

  8. palmcoaster says:

    Other than spending trillions defending democracies in foreign faraway lands just to benefit the weapons building industry and or other special interest….we need to take care of our own first. Homelessness, mental and addiction rehab for young and elderly many of them veterans of our wars. How come some protest more about their taxes not to be used to help the needy but no complaints when trillions and lives wasted in policing the world?.

  9. Trailer Bob says:

    Not as many as in Palm Coast Buddy. If you could get rid of all the meth, things would improve greatly. But is a a LOT safer to live out here than PC. Most of the crime is between two people who know each other. Most of us out here are decent working people who just want to get away from the zoo of palm coast.

  10. Just the truth says:

    Anon is correct City Officials needs to start listening to what this town needs and it isn’t anymore fast food restaurants, how about listening to what Anon wrote and put in some industry to employ citizens. There is plenty of land that large corporations should be here and they can be on the outer skirts of the town.
    Jim Landon needs to go since he has done NOTHING to bring in industry here, why would he when he is rolling in the dough of tax payers giving him a huge retirement plan and a over priced salary. He could careless if the other citizens are struggling to make ends meet.

  11. Fernando Melendez says:

    I whole heartetly have to agree with Anon on his take on the fact that next time Mercedes Benz and Fedex come knocking on your door to build factories and distribution centers to employ the whole town, to just approve it.
    This will certainly keep the economy going, and more importantly our PC residents employed. This will have an overall positive response on several major issues, especially on the affordability crisis going on in PC right now. Just my opinion, new resident from NY, nothing new to me, but Anon makes sense.

    Also want to thank this news outlet for story that takes an in-depth look at the Baker Act .

  12. gmath55 says:

    I agree with Anon. To many fast food restaurants for sure! So, when I win the lottery I plan to build a manufacturing plant. maybe an auto plant or Amazon or I would just let the Palm Coast residents vote and the most votes wins.

  13. Percy's mother says:

    I, along with at least 3 others, agree with “Anon” that Palm Coast is a depressing black hole with lack of industry.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I am a parent of an adult who was Baker Acted during the holidays. This state and County is a joke. We ship them off to hospitals and facilities who keep them only for 72 hours. Where once they get out, they refuse to take their medicine because they feel better. Days, weeks, or months later guess what happens? They are right back to being Baker Acted. Currently, we are on our 4th time with my relative. When are we going to take care of the mentally ill and stop sweeping it under the rug like it never happens. For families like mine it us an never ending nightmare that ruins people’s lives. It is totally unnecessary. The mentally ill are people who given the proper care can lead productive lives. Help them NOW!

  15. Mark says:

    Its a shame he killed himself. I knew him for about 10 years. Even when he did me and my wife really bad took r money and kick us out. i dont wish no to kill there self.R.I.P Craig J. Laing.

  16. ASF says:

    @Anonymous says: You are in a tough situation. While it feels very lonely and isolating to be the loved one of person suffering from Brain Disorders, there are many others who have walked in your shoes. I highly recommend that you contact NAMI and/or DRADA and involve yourself in a group that will give you the support and guidance you will need to get through. Good Luck!

  17. Mimi says:

    My father Craig laing was a good guy he was dealing with lots of stuff and if people on here can’t keep their comments to themselves shouldn’t say anything at all

  18. Anonymous says:

    I have and thank you ASF.

  19. Mike M. says:

    I have known Craig for over 30 years this is a shame, he tried this 25 years ago but in a garage to kill himself using exhaust fumes he was saved, this is a Shame Craig as noted for his Kind heart and many talents, he was a very Sick man who needed attention all of the time May you Rest in Peace Craig J. Laing
    God be with you

  20. Laurence D'Alberti says:

    I knew Craig Laing since he was a child growing up on Harrington Sound Road Bermuda. Went to summer camp on an Island in the Great Sound, spent the summers sailing Sunfishes around The Great Sound. Hung out with him at French Connection partying with the Cruise Ship passengers in the early 80s. He told me he had been clean and sober for a long time and I believe him. Bumped into him later in life when I moved to Daytona Beach met him by chance at a motorcycle shop in Holly Hill FL. Then again made connection with him on Facebook. Really sad to see my friend pass away like this. I have to think about this more.

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