Florida Sheriff asks for change to Baker Act transportation responsibility

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JACKSON COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - The Jackson County Sheriff's Office has answered more than 21,000 calls for service in 2018.

"One of the things we're seeing also is the increase in transportation of people with mental health issues," Sheriff Lou Roberts said.

The Sheriff's Office is the designated transport agency for Baker Act patients in Jackson County.

"So far this year, we've had 167 and about a third of those are ones the Jackson County Sheriff's Office has generated," Sheriff Roberts said. "The rest are from other agencies."

Sheriff Roberts said 93 of the 248 Baker Act cases from 2017 were filed by the Sheriff's Office, but deputies transported all 248.

"When you've only got five people working and you take one individual off the road to respond to calls within their zone, it can make an impact on response time, the ability to follow up on calls," Sheriff Roberts said.

Sheriff Roberts said it takes a deputy off the road for about three hours to transport patients to Panama City.

"We will still do the ones that are court ordered, but the agencies that are generating their own Baker Acts, I'm asking that those agencies do their own transport," Sheriff Roberts said.

He made that request to the county commission Tuesday.

"It's just become a financial burden and we would like some of the municipalities to share that financial burden with us," Sheriff Roberts said.

Officials from other agencies said they also don't have the manpower.

"The problem is it puts the smaller agencies in a bigger bind, especially the ones who only have one officer on duty," Marianna Police Chief Hayes Baggett said.

The Marianna Police Department has three officers on patrol during the day.

"If we're shorthanded, we're shorthanded on day shift," Chief Baggett said. "We're not shorthanded on night shift. We have a minimum staffing of three on nights."

"Most of these agencies we have jurisdiction countywide, so we can assist them in calls and back up on calls and maybe it won't be a burden for any of us," Sheriff Roberts said.

The agencies are planning to meet sometime before the next commission meeting on September 25 to work on a solution.

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