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Four Palm Coast Baker Acts in 24 Hours: A Day in the Life of Flagler Sheriff’s Deputies

| March 6, 2014

Baker act flagler county

As circumstances drive many individuals of all ages to despair, Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies find themselves increasingly playing the role of crisis interventionists. (Play Southend)

In an appearance before the Palm Coast City Council late last month, Flagler County Sheriff Jim Manfre startled some listeners when he described the extent to which deputies’ shifts can be dominated by issues that may have little to do with law enforcement and a lot to do with mental health: deputies, Manfre said, are conducting between 30 to 40 Baker Act interventions a month. That’s the name of the Florida law that empowers police to seize individuals who may harm themselves or others, and deliver them to a psychiatric ward, usually against the individuals’ will, in Daytona Beach.

The number of Baker Acts may be high, but it is a reflection of a statewide trend that has seen commitments under the Baker Act increase by a third over the past decade. All ages, races and economic backgrounds are affected. Last week, the case of a 7-year-old girl Baker Acted after she allegedly became violent with the dean of students at Belle Terre Elementary School drew significant attention and shed light on why and how children that young may also be Baker Acted.

Earlier this week, in barely a 24-hour period between late Monday afternoon and the early evening of Tuesday (March 3 and 4), deputies were involved in four commitments under the Baker Act. It was an unusually high number of commitments in such a short span. But each one is illustrative of the variety of mental health situations deputies are confronting, compelling them to make the determination between simply diffusing a situation, making an arrest or carrying out a Baker Act. The 24-hour period is also illustrative of Manfre’s point to the council last month: local governments are going to have to become more aware of mental health issues in their communities and begin to think about developing diversionary programs similar to one in Orlando, where the drug-court model is being applied to mental health courts.

The four cases outlined below are based on police reports.

The first case took place just before 5 p.m. on Monday. Deputies and paramedics responded to a house on Karas
Trail in Palm Coast, regarding a 21-year-old woman who had possibly overdosed.

The woman had consumed approximately 8 ounces of liquid cough syrup (Dextromethorphan), and she’d told paramedics that she’d done so in an attempt to kill herself. The woman’s mother told police she’d been Baker Acted eight times prior to this occasion, and that over the weekend, she had attempted suicide twice—once by using a plastic grocery bag, and the second time with a kitchen knife.

The woman was taken to Florida Hospital Flagler where she could be medically cleared for transport under the Baker Act.

Four cases illustrate the variety of mental health situations confronting sheriff’s deputies and paramedics.

Later that evening, at 9:56 p.m., deputies were called to an R-Section home, on Raintree Place, in Palm Coast, to assist the Palm Coast Fire Department and Flagler County Fire Rescue. When a deputy arrived there, a 52-year-old man was lying in a fetal position in the bathtub facing away from responders. He appeared severely intoxicated and was combative with paramedics.

He’d written a note to his wife that said, “I love you,” with his signature. It wasn’t his habit to do so, his wife told responders, but the couple had recently lost their home and he’d lost his job. He is bipolar and has been very depressed.

As his wife spoke to responders, he resumed yelling at paramedics, saying, “Leave me alone, I just want to die.” He turned the faucet to pour water in the tub. The deputy turned the water off. He turned it on again, then “started banging his left arm against the tile wall where I could observe fresh cut marks on his wrists.” the deputy wrote in the incident report. “I then grabbed his left arm and he banged his head against the tile wall,” at which time two deputies secured him in handcuffs while he was still in the tub.

On the way to Halifax hospital, where Baker Act commitments take place, the victim began to move around in the back seat of the patrol car, falling to the floorboard and screaming that he was stuck, his wrists hurting. The deputy pulled off I-95 at the U.S. 1 exit where, along with a Volusia County Sheriff’s deputy, “we pulled [the victim] out of the car, sat him back up and secured him with a seat belt to keep him from thrashing around again.” At Halifax, the man, the report states, “began going crazy and hospital security and staff had to restrain him to his bed with four point restraints.”

In his talk to the Palm Coast Council, Manfre had spoken of a grant the Sheriff’s Office secured that would enable deputies no longer to make the drive to Volusia County, but to drop off individuals committed under the Baker Act at a location in Flagler where they would be further evaluated and transported by mental health personnel, thus letting deputies get back to their beats quicker. But that process is not yet in effect, Sheriff’s Spokesman Bob Weber said this week.

A little after 5 a.m. On Tuesday, a situation was developing on the southbound side of I-95 at mile marker 278. Several sheriff’s units responded. A 31-year-old man was telling deputies that he was Jesus Christ and the president of the United States, among other things. He then told one deputy that his father (the victim’s father) had “opened the gates of Hell.”

The man had been driving a a 2008 Suzuki Forenza. It was partly burned. The man had set fire to the front seat with a cigarette, prompting a call to fire rescue personnel. When a deputy initially arrived on scene, the interior of the car was on fire and the driver was trying to open the trunk. Since he was acting suspiciously, he was handcuffed.

A Flagler County Fire Rescue unit put out the fire. The vehicle was registered to the man’s father, who, contacted by phone in Jacksonville—where father and son live—told deputies that his son had permission to use the vehicle (thus removing any criminal motive in the unfolding incident) and that he had a long history of mental illness. A Baker Act then followed.

Later Tuesday, at 7:11 p.m, deputies were faced with a suicidal 15-year-old boy in Palm Coast. He’d run away and told his mother by phone that he wanted to kill himself. He wouldn’t tell her where he was. He said he was upset because he had an argument with his girlfriend earlier in the day. His mothjer told deputies that he’d made similar threats in the past but that she’d never reported it.

While deputies were at his house, the boy returned home and went to his room. He spoke with a deputy, telling him he’d had an argument with his girlfriend and with his brother, and said that “he did tell his mother he hopes she enjoys his funeral because he wanted to harm himself.” He said he did not know why he’d made those comments to his mother, and that he was very confused.

A Baker Act was initiated. Being 15, he was to be taken to Halifax Behavioral Center, but the facility was full. The boy was instead taken to Halifax hospital’s psychiatric facility.

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12 Responses for “Four Palm Coast Baker Acts in 24 Hours: A Day in the Life of Flagler Sheriff’s Deputies”

  1. Mary Cannady says:

    Is it the sign of the times?

  2. confidential says:

    Other than wasting our tax dollars in all the overdevelopment and luxurious infrastructures that benefit very few…we should direct some of those taxes to provide services for mental health and addiction rehab benefitting our community as a whole by doing so. Our Sheriff is doing all he can to address the issue even if securing grants. Mental Health issues are currently increasing for the bad economic crisis that many families are experiencing, specially in ours, one of the highest unemployment counties. Do not blame it on the elderly Mr. McGuire! The above news speaks for itself.

  3. A.S.F. says:

    I hate to say this but these stories are pretty typical of the sort of things I dealt with when I worked as a Social Worker on a Behavioral Unit in a Community Hospital that had a locked unit (and, therefore, took involuntary patients, usually for a 72 hour observation period.) I thank God for the ACA which brings parity to, and forces insurance companies to cover, treatment for mental illness and addiction. Before this, Hospitals either turned very sick people away with referrals for outpatient treatment (which the insurance companies than could refuse to cover once the patients showed up there, if they ever did), or had to admit them for a “social admission” without insurance reimbursement which the hospital them had to eat the cost for–and pass the deficit on to insured consumers–or send the suicidal patient home with their desperate family members who either would agree to pay the resulting bills out of pocket or just take their loved ones home and take their chances. It’s a desperate fight, any way you look at it.. I wish the best for the individuals and families mentioned above. The police have a very difficult job. I hope we will do a better job for those suffering with Brain Disorders in the future. None of us is immune.

  4. I/M/O says:

    It will always be the responsibility of the police to respond to calls involving mentally ill people. Unfortunately being the one 24/7/365 department they are given these responsibilities. But when you give Officers a responsibility they must be properly trained in that responsibility and be given the proper equipment and vehicles to fulfill that responsibility.

    But the police should not be transporting these people. While they should be escorting the ambulance personnel simply handcuffing and seat belting a mentally ill person is not proper procedure. Under no circumstances should a male Police Officer be transporting a mentally ill female by himself. These delusional women will often make false allegations against the Officer which then have to be investigated taking up more time and funding.

    Every Police Officer knows that the mentally ill can be extremely violent and they for some reason become very strong when they get violent.

    Now if Flagler County does not want to use ambulance personnel to transport the mentally ill to facilities then they must provide the Sheriff’s Department with vehicles and the proper equipment to do so. The Sheriff will need a couple of vans equipped to restrain these people on gurneys with proper restraint straps. If he needs more manpower then it has to be given to him. Responding too, taking into custody and then transporting to a facility can take several hours thus taking that Officer off the clock to respond to other calls.

    If that is not done sooner or later one of the Officers driving a mentally ill person in their car is going to get hurt or perhaps suffer an even worse fate. Now if an Officer is transporting what has been determined to be a mentally ill person in a police car and that car is caused to crash by the mentally ill person then the county is going to face a massive lawsuit as to negligence. Simply reading the above account of an Officer who had to stop his vehicle tells us that we have a very serious situation simply waiting to occur.

    I/M/O Sheriff Manfree should be given everything he needs to allow his men and women to fulfill their duties in this area. Everything needed to maintain the safety of his Officers and the safety of the mentally ill patient. To be penny wise and a pound stupid is not the answer for this problem.

  5. NortonSmitty says:

    They do waste too much time tracking down and dealing with these poor sick people individually. I would humbly suggest that if they want to be more efficient at corralling psychotically twisted self-centered anti-social narcissistic psychopaths they back a couple buses up to the next meeting of the Palm Coast Chamber of Commerce.

    You’re welcome.

  6. theDude says:

    we should legalize suicide and give these people a humane exit. everyone will die at some point, why not let people choose when and give them more humane options? also we should legalize all drugs. with a bit of LSD, or a bag of pot, or a tab of ecstasy, these people might have a better outlook on life. we have to realize that some people really do have terrible and painful lives, and we should allow them to make that final decision with dignity and medical supervision.

    • Wolley Segap says:

      Yes legalize all drugs until your kid gets his/her hands on some and winds up with an addiction problem…but hey itll be legal.

  7. Peter says:

    The Bible states that at the END of TIMES people will loose their minds ! BOO

  8. confidential says:

    Is really with a nauseating stomach that I read the misuse of our hard earned taxes while a portion of them are not set aside for the mentally ill and substance abuse rehab.
    Yes my stomach turns when I read in Flagler of millions of our contributions wasted to build Taj Mahals, buying old decrepit real state and utility plants at overpriced rates and provide infrastructure on streets we do not own or for Big Box stores shadow on its vacant land.
    Now also with Volusia taxes forcing the taxpayers to fund via a bunch of prepared cheer leading number of TShirt displaying fans, that do not represent the real number of affected residents of Daytona Beach, the Daytona and Volusia officials passed an initial 40 million contribution to build a luxury 289 bed hotel mall and parking and another 40 million tax exception to benefit projects for the Frances family Daytona Speedway owners.
    This people is listed in the Forbes magazine as one of the richest in the country, wealth made on the backs of Daytona Beach residents from the start to a never end. But in contrast we have the news that 2,700 of our men women and children in Florida have been turned away from domestic abuse shelters due to lack of sufficient beds. Shame on the Florida politicians stealing our taxes to satisfy the greed of the rich!
    We need in Florida Mayors (like the one in Phoenix AZ, ending homelessness for veterans, to start) and councilmen and commissioners to be elected to work for us the middle and lower class too. These officials should get their a…s off their bucket swivel leather chairs and start doing something about the real need of the communities that they lie to while campaigning. Maybe as they misuse our taxes to benefit their wealthy buddies then work hard in fundraisings to fund our Dr, Kanaraki’ Bunnell free clinic, build a homeless shelter for our many homeless men, women and children in financial distress living in cars or our surrounding woods, to have a place where they can’t be kicked out and a Flagler county location for the Stewart Marchant to take our Baker acted people, also properly fund our Veterans medical and mental rehabilitation. Don’t you guys have pride? Or love enough America and “its people” more than the momentum of lining your pockets?

  9. Ogrethetop says:

    Why are they forced to travel to Daytona? and if halifaxs beds are full the made to go to orange county. so funny how flaglers hospital gets to pick and choose what patients they see…

  10. PCresident says:

    St. John’s County and Flagler County are the proverbial red headed step kids to the mental health and substance abuse systems. While there is some long term housing in St. John’s County (Avanti Health) the residents are not locals to this area. In the middle of the housing decline they bought a bunch of homes in St. John’s to provide as halfway homes, but their acute treatment facilities are down south.

    For mental health there is nothing except for Duval or Daytona. Getting the patients to the appropriate care facility in a timely manner is part of the problem. Leaving them high and dry when they are asking for help is probably the worst possible situation for people in need; it is like a helicopter coming to your aid because they are the only ones who can access you, and when they get there, they say, “Oh, so sorry, but the ride is full right now, we will try to make it back in 20 to 30 days when there will be more room. We didn’t expect an emergency. For your troubles though, here is a sugar packet or two while you wait.”

    Having well minded City Council members is a must! Ferguson and Lewis have to go. Lewis is inept to realize how dumb he is and how he thinks citizens are obtuse! Ferguson thinks he doesn’t have to respond to a simple email to Citizens. When elected officials heads get too big, the citizens need to reign them into reality.

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