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Advocacy and Florida Legislative Updates

On this page you’ll find information about local, state and national events that in our viewpoint advocate for the mentally ill and their families.


  Reported by Big Bend Mental Health Coalition, Advocacy Committee, Dan Hendrickson,

MAJOR OMNIBUS MENTAL HEALTH BILL (Senate Bill 12) PASSED FINAL FLOOR ACTION FRIDAY, MARCH 11, 38-0 IN THE SENATE AND 118-1 IN THE HOUSE (A 204-PAGE STRIKE EVERYTHING AMENDMENT WAS REDUCED TO 157 PG BILL, SINCE HB 439 had already passed earlier in the week and could be removed from the omnibus bill):  These major bills were two years in the making and increase accountability and access to virtually all levels and types of services provided to persons with mental illness and/or substance disorders.

SB 12 Senator Rene Garcia dubbed the access issue as the “NO WRONG DOOR” fix, to help individuals in crisis and law enforcement trying to deliver people to appropriate hospitals and other facilities.  In the House, Representative Gayle Harrell succeeded in increasing accountability, performance standards, clarity about roles and contracting among the hundreds of local facilities, seven Managing Entities, and the Department of Children and Families.

Both chambers were determined to align Marchman Act proceedings for substance abuse commitments and evaluations to be more similar to Baker Act procedures.  Outpatient services may be easier for judges and facilities to negotiate and order with individuals who don’t need to remain locked up in inpatient facilities.  While the jail diversion potential for thousands of defendants was substantially weakened from earlier reform proposals,  this omnibus reform bill, in combination with HB 439 and HB 769, will help many individuals avoid felony convictions, imprisonment in state prisons, and restrictive commitment to state forensic mental hospitals.

 After several amendments on the floor, the Senate had passed the first of the Major MH bills for this year, and immediately sent it “in messages” to the House February 23-24, where it was later  matched up with House Bill 7097, which had been waiting on the calendar for floor action in that chamber. 7097 was “laid on the table” Friday, March 4, in deference to SB 12; On Monday, the House amended SB 12 and sent it to the Senate. All during the final week, the Senate worked on possible amendments, which were filed Friday and approved in both chambers (with only minor scares)  and sent to the Governor.


MENTAL HEALTH FUNDING HAD FIRST APPEARED IN THE APPROPRIATIONS PROCESS in  week 5, but with modest fiscal increases,  still awaiting legislative awakening!  Advocates and family members called and sent emails to legislators insisting on substantially more funding than had been announced so far to try to respond to Florida’s Mental Health Crisis.  The millions offered up  do very little to catch up with past budget cuts and burgeoning needs as Florida has become LAST in per capita funding for mental health services!    Someone will soon calculate whether the 53-65 million dollars increase would move us up on the national comparisons; gubernatorial vetoes could also affect those totals.   The new dollars and improved processes won’t however stop the suicides, imprisonment and daily mental health crises impacting every community in the state.

Appropriations bills  HB 5001 , 5003 (AND SB 2500, 2502) (summaries sent separately) these bills were slated to be the most important policy decisions again this year, after failing to respond in the 2015 Legislature (SEE last year reports)

SHOW US THE MONEY!!   Appropriations came in for a landing during the final 4 days of session, with the final efforts still underfunding even the modest requests from the behavioral health community pleading with the state of Florida to finally respond to the growing mental health crisis in our communities.  Lifelong professionals point to hundreds of millions of dollars in budget cuts and underfunding over recent decades as DIRECTLY responsible for the shameful lack of mental health services and the consequent havoc on families, emergency rooms and jails statewide.   Unnecessary funerals daily accent the failure; tens of thousands of individuals with mental illness and substance disorders languish in jails and prisons, with little hope of followup treatment or recovery even when able to be released back home.

Among various legislators decrying the underfunding of MH in the Budget debates on the floor, Sen Garcia himself expressed disappointment they couldn’t get  additional funding  for services when individuals leave the crisis units; Sen Joyner and Representative Pafford both stated firmly that we should have tried a little harder; Sen Clemons complained that we shouldn’t be the lowest per capita funding for mh (“@$41 per person, even Mississippi spends $108 and Wyoming almost 4 times what Florida spends!”) Rep J Cortes stated bluntly:” There’s not enough to keep people out of jail”; Rep. Berman reminded the House that Florida is 50th in mh funding, and Chair Harrell replied, “Yes this significant amount of new money… should be just the beginning.”

Many individuals followed and lobbied one or more of the specific bills and can add additional information/interpretation on the legislature’s accomplishments  this year.  Just like reporters, we each describe what we saw, what we were most interested in, and for some lobbyists, what they were paid to advocate.  Nevertheless, despite some of our differences of opinions, the legislature DID respond to our overall and persistent advocacy for the various parties and agencies and organizations determined to improve mh/s ab services in the state.

For Tallahaseeans, also thank  volunteer Coalition member Rick Smith for coming to the capitol in the final weeks and sitting thru floor and legislative committee meetings, reviewing bills and amendments, etc.    And thank the reporters who took the special effort to report on our issues, even though they weren’t the hot button issues most elected officials were so noisy about.

 Watch videos of specific committee hearings, which are available easiest via the respective Committee pages on the websites of both legislative chambers: and )

  Also, when you bookmark those two key websites, use the “bills” pages to access information on all the bills below. When you communicate with a particular legislator or their staff, find them easily on listings of “Senators” and “Representatives” on the two sites.   Please communicate any new information on bills or amendments by emailing .  Feel free to call if you may wish to attend periodic meetings of the Advocacy Committee, which met every Monday at noon during session, to update each other on legislative and other events and opportunities:  850/570-1967.  


      (with companion bills when easily identifiable)                                       66 bills & counting

  (passage and votes are unanimous favorable, unless otherwise indicated)


Besides the Budget HB 5001 and SB12, some ten other bills passed which included issues we’ve been reporting in these updates, including the forensic bills HB 439 and HB 769 referenced above. Some bills were passed, in part, at least (although NONE remained the same as you may have read them at the beginning of the legislative session; so review the final versions from the website(s) before you try to discuss a bill in depth).  None of the bills will go into statute until the governor either signs them, or allows them to be enacted without his signature or veto.


 History during session:

On SB 12, the Sen Appropriations Committee  on 2/18  passed a new 135 page strike everything amendment, with all our support, replacing the recent 124 page Proposed Committee Substitute  to the even earlier strike all.  Passed 1/26  in Appropriations Subcommittee on Health & Human Services. MENTAL HEALTH AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE (1st Omnibus BA/MA Reform bill) filed 1/8    ch 394/397     keeps Marchman Act separate but uses Baker Act procedures; changes court orders to “services” instead of current law which orders “placement”;  county judges allowed to initiate inpatient evaluations;  inpatient services orders would be limited to 3 months, instead of 6 (hospitals still would have up to 6 month orders); gives more authority to State Attys in BA proceedings (CONFIDENTIALITY PROBLEM was resolved and removed on the floor in week 7); New versions eliminated the meaningful DIVERSION proposal that LEOs must Baker Act defendants unless they are charged with a “forcible felony” crime.  Too bad, this important change would have broadened the jail diversion from the outset, but would have expanded needs in receiving facilities).

  In its first official hearing, in the  Sen Children & Families Committee 1/14, it  passed with no amendments; see video!

HOUSE BILL : HB 7097 (Formerly House PCB Children & Families 16-01) by Representative Gayle Harrell  was set for floor action in Week 8 and was LAID ON THE TABLE, Friday March 4, and replaced by a very similar version of SB 12. It passed Monday and was sent back to the Senate.

  It had previously  passed its  committee meetings 2/17 with a 133 page strike everything amendment, and  2/8 with minimal changes.  Had passed Children and Families subcommittee 1/26; 84 pgr on Baker Act / Marchman Act workshopped on 1/13, during which we were requested to speak.  The proposed committee bill set priorities and structural requirements, while adding provisions to Marchman Act proceedings,   removed mandatory transportation standards, etc. and was amended again nearly every time it came back up. Includes our language for intent to promote recovery services, involvement of consumers and families.


 A)   HB 439 McBurney  MH SERVICES IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM PASSED 117-0 in the House 2/24 and was stapled to the omnibus mental health bill SB 12 on Friday March 4, then passed the Senate floor Wed Mar 9 on its way to the governor.

History:   HB 439  passed  committees 1/27 and 2/10 with amendments,  BUT an amendment removed the nearly $4.8 Million  allocation for the Forensic Diversion programs proposed again this year for Duval and Broward Counties, in addition to J. Leifman’s ongoing Dade County program.    This insult was on top of the amendments in previous committees which removed Conditional Releases, because the agency put a price tag of $74 Million on making the conditional releases work in practice.  The estimate may have been justified but DELETING THE FUNDING AND CONDITIONAL RELEASES WERE NOT JUSTIFIED, except that the legislature is still determined NOT to fund the services needed to respond to the mental health crisis in the state.

  SB 604 Diaz de la Portilla passed Judiciary Committee 1/12, and again 2/17  with a 44 pg Strike all; still in Approps Committee.

 Veterans and Mental health courts; pilot incompetent to proceed programs; (passed committees during committee weeks this past fall), Okaloosa County pilot added to Miami, Broward, Duval in 2/17 amendment.  Also passed Approps Committee 3/3 and set for Special Order on the Senate floor for 3/8.  (This bill, without the Okaloosa pilot project,  also became part of the omnibus mental health bill SB 12 until it passed both chambers on its own, see above).   SB 604 was laid on the table in deference to HB 439)

B)    The other Forensic Mental Health bill which passed this year was:


The bill provides continuation of jail meds when a defendant who is incompetent is sent to a state forensic hospital).  But the bill kept in a restrictive 30 day mandatory transport provision and confusing language which may limit the longstanding “5-year rule” for incompetent defendants. The bill had passed its first committee 1/13 see video ( speakers included DCF, BBMHC, Smart Justice Coalition). It had passed the HOUSE FLOOR 3/1-2, after passing its other committees  2/9 & 2/18; 

  The Senate companion bill, SB 862 by Legg; passed 1st committees 2/1 (see our testimony) and again 2/10 and 2/29. Special Order hearing was 3/8, when SB 862 was Laid on the Table in deference to HB 769 above.


SB 1578 Legg INVOLUNTARY COMMITMENT UNDER THE BAKER ACT : separate out Alzheimer’s patients and keep records for dementia, etc.) Companion bill by Smith was HB 763.

Neither bill was heard in a committee, so died; But, the limitation against placing Alzheimer s patients in state mental hospitals was passed in the omnibus mental health bills, which accomplished part of sponsors’ goals.  See SB 12.

HB 7029 “School Choice” included:

SB 884 Benacquisto YOUTH SUICIDE AWARENESS & PREVENTION passed committees 1/20, 1/28 ; Scheduled for Approps Committee 3/3 but the committee ran out of time; also has been stapled to Sen Gaetz’s SB 1166, another “legislative train,” this one 89 pages and growing. On the floor, SB 1166 was heard on FRIDAY, MARCH 4 and Laid on the Table and replaced by HB 7029, which still included the Youth Suicide training language. By the time the lengthy and controversial HB 7029 was finally passed Friday evening, the Youth Suicide Training was weakened by the House and made discretionary and more flexible. (SEE final language of HB 7029).

History: The companion bill    HB 907 Eagle, passed first committee 1/26; SCHEDULED FOR 2/2 1:30 PM but was temporarily postponed as the committee time ended and was never RESCHEDULED.

HB 979 Peters BEHAVIORAL HEALTH CARE SERVICES; Passed committees 2/18, 1/26,  (with new strikeall 1/26); had been heard in workshop 1/13 (SEE Video); Died in Approps Subcommittee

  SB 1336 Latvala :  managing entities, Jennifer Act, both 394 and 397, health care surrogates; 3d party Must make decisions for patients; includes good recovery tools language, but inconsistent provisions for 3d parties; Passed 1/27 SENATE CHILDREN & FAMILIES COMMITTEE and again 2/11 in Approps Subcommittee, but without ams; still in Approps Committee. A related Work Group was added to the omnibus MH bill SB 12 which would study the issue of using more advance directives.  (SEE SB 12).

 HB 1083 Agency for Persons with Disabilities passed the House 3/7 and the Senate 3/9 & was sent to the governor. Included HB 919 Wood INVOLUNTARY ADMISSION TO RESIDENTIAL SERVICES (APD) Continuity of care and review for each person’s plan & release; passed its committees 1/13, 1/27 and 2/4 with amendments and was on the floor calendar, where it died.  But parts were stapled into the Agency bill/ companion bills  HB 1083/ SB 7054, APD committee bill passing out of committee 1/15,  2/11,  3/3, and Special Order for 3/7 where it was laid on the table in deference to HB 1083.



HB 373 Burgess & Health Quality Subcommittee; Bill passed 3/9 and sent to governor.   House bill passed both committees 11/17, 1/21 and passed floor unanimously 3/1-2.  (Bill’s content is also included partially in the omnibus HB 7097, now SB 12).

Companion bill SB 858 Legg;  passed committees 2/9, 2/17, and 2/29;  on SPECIAL ORDER  FRIDAY, MARCH 4 and Laid on Table, replaced by HB 373, which passed 2d reading in the Senate and on 3d reading for final passage. Laid on Table 3/8, in deference to HB 373.


 A)     HB 977 by Peters BEHAVIORAL HEALTH WORKFORCE; Final Passage as amended on 3/10 and sent to the governor.

History: HB 977 had passed committees 1/25, 2/4; Passed floor 3/1-2 114-1! 

  SB 1250 Latvala; passed committees  2/10 and 2/24     Right to discharge, etc. corrected last year’s; but not include right to petition

Passed Appropr Committee 3/1, and was Laid on Table in deference to HB 977 on 3/9.

 B)  HB 1241 Plasencia , passed committees 1/25, 2/4; passed House floor 3/1-2 117-1, and passed Senate floor unanimous 3/4 with ams, and passed House and was sent to the governor.  Companion bill SB 152  Grimsley ORDERING OF MEDICATION,  passed committees 10/20, 11/18, 2/25 see new language.  Special Order calendar 3/3 and Laid on Table, replaced by HB 1241.

C)   HB 423 Pigman DRUG PRESCRIPTION BY ARNPs & Physician Assts; passed its first committee 12/1 (12-1), 2d 1/12 (11-2) & final committee on 1/21 unanimous; Passed House 3/1 by a vote of 117-2. On the final day of session, the bill bounced back and forth for three floor votes and passed with only one nay vote.  Sent to governor.

Companion bill was SB 676 Grimsley HEALTH CARE; passed its 3 committees 1/11 (4-2), 1/26, & 2/18; was laid on the table 3/8 in deference to HB 423.

 D)   CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES SB 964 by Grimsley, passed  committees 2/1,  2/22, and 2/29; quickly scheduled and passed 2d reading on the floor 3/2, passed the Senate 3/3 and  House Special Order 3/7, and passed and enrolled the next day.  Related, companion bills included: SB 7038 by Health Policy Committee, passed out of committee 1/11 (electronic prescriptions, expanding access to the PDMP database), but died with 2 committee references remaining. And  HB 313 by Pilon, waited on the House floor, after passing its committees in November and January; was on Special Order for 3/1 but was Temporarily passed, before being laid on the table 3/7 in deference to SB 964.

 TELEHEALTH  BILL (as HB 7087) passed late on the last day of session,  providing specific health services via electronic means, with a work group to study and recommend changes.

  HB 7087 Sprowls, Select Committee on Health Care Access; passed out of committee 1/20 as a PCB; passed additional committees 2/8, 2/17; Passed House floor 3/1-2 by a vote of 114-3; Also passed Senate floor unanimous 3/3 and sent back to House with amendments.

  HB 1353 Mia Jones (not heard in any committees, but was amended into the Committee bill above) SB 1686 Bean;  passed committees 1/26, 2/11 passed Approps Committee 2/25 and was on Special order 3/2 and laid on the table 3/3, replaced by HB 7087.

PARENTING PLANS AND CHILDREN’S MENTAL HEALTH SB 794/ HB 615 by Sen Ring & Representative Pritchett.  Both bills passed committees but died, SB 794 passing the Senate and dying in messages.  The provision was included in SB 12 and passed, requiring that a plan for shared parental responsibility must authorize either parent to consent for mh treatment for the child.   See SB 12.


HB 325 Campbell, Plasencia INVOLUNTARY EXAMINATIONS UNDER THE BAKER ACT-passed its third committee 1/21 (all 3 unanimous) and passed the House floor  on 2/3 by a vote of 111-4.

  SB 572 Altman: passed committees  Nov 17,  2/16, and 2/25 (16-2 vote); DIED on Calendar for floor action

SB 946 Grimsley AUTHORIZED PRACTICES OF ARNPs & LICENSED PHYSICIAN ASSTS; Passed committees 2/9, 2/17; died in Approps Committee

YOUTH TREATMENT PROGRAMS (Substance abuse, disabilities, camps, etc.)

SB 998 Ring;  passed committees 1/19,  2/11 ; died in Approps Committee

HB 1381 Moraitis; passed committees 1/26, 2/17,  died on the House floor calendar (2d reading) since the Senate didn’t pass SB 998.


SB 1142 Hays; passed 2d committee  2/9;  passed its 1st committee 2/1 ; died in Approps Committee, because the House did not move companion bill   HB 915, by  Mayfield, which was not  heard in any committees in the House


SB 1278 Ring PUBLIC RECORDS/ BAKER ACTS; passed committees 1/20, 2/1, 2/10;  temp. passed 2/18 on Special Order for floor action, but not passed on, still remains on calendar.


  HB 1027 Adkins ;  passed committee 1/20 with strike all from the 1st Am Foundation; died with 2 committees remaining. SB 1280 Ring did not get heard in any Senate committees.

 SB 762 Abruzzo, Marchman Act exemption from public records disclosure; passed committees 1/20,  2/1, 2/10; 2/23 passed the Senate floor but died in messages from the Senate.

  HB 741 Kerner, passed committee 1/20, died with 2 committees remaining.

THE FOLLOWING BILLS DID NOT PASS ANY COMMITTEES  THIS SESSION:(in addition to some companion bills above)

 INSURANCE PARITY: “mandatory” instead of optional coverage


  HB 1285 Slosberg

Call or email Speaker Crisafulli and your House of Representatives Member with the message:  Please support expansion of Medicaid coverage.



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