Rod Keller keeps an eye on Scientology various front groups for us, and once again he’s got the drop on CCHR…
Scientologists receive regular legislative updates from the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), Scientology’s front group that lobbies against the mental health industry. This week, Scientologists are receiving a flurry of requests from CCHR Florida President Diane Stein urging them to write their representatives to oppose bills in the Florida legislature that would allow physician assistants and advanced registered nurse practitioners to execute certificates under the Baker Act. CCHR is against the Baker Act entirely, which allows for a 72-hour involuntary psychiatric examination of a person who may be in danger of hurting themselves or others. It is one way Scientology is fighting the “psychs.”
Under the current law judges, doctors, law enforcement officers, licensed mental health counselors, licensed clinical social workers, psychiatric nurses, psychologists, and licensed marriage and family therapists are authorized to execute a Baker Act certificate. The new bill would clarify the status of physician’s assistants, who are not specifically named but are being treated as authorized under the Baker Act by a 2008 opinion from Attorney General Pam Bondi. Scientology usually counts Bondi as an ally, and she has been a guest of Scientology at the Fort Harrison Hotel.
The bill would also authorize advanced registered nurse practitioners to execute a Baker Act certificate. An ARNP is a registered nurse who has also completed a master’s degree in nursing. They can perform many duties usually performed by a doctor, such as writing prescriptions and making referrals to specialists. ARNPs specialize in disease prevention, wellness and patient education to help them avoid hospitalization or frequent emergency room visits.
It may seem like a small change in the law, but Florida Senator Daphne Campbell is adamant that the change is needed. She has introduced this bill in the past six sessions of the legislature, but it has never passed both houses to become law. That failure seems to be due to legislative gridlock. Sen. Campbell tells us “The bill passed the House without opposition every year, it passed committee in the Senate only to fail on the floor. It’s a simple bill, and Florida is the only state where ARNPs cannot commit someone. Most of the time they work by themselves, particularly in emergency rooms in urban areas. If you have a patient who is so depressed they come to the ER and they say they want to commit suicide, that nurse cannot do anything other than call the police. They may take hours, or if they have other calls to respond to so they may never arrive. In that time the patient may commit suicide, or they may kill the nurse and themselves.”
Sen. Campbell has never received any communication from CCHR or anybody else in opposition to the bill. “I never heard of them before, and I never received anything from them. I guess they don’t understand mental health. The Baker Act is to help someone who wants to commit suicide. Only one time there was a legislator who said the sheriffs were against it. I asked the sheriff’s department in her district, and they were not against it. My question is why is the ARNP left out? They pass a board to be a nurse, then they have more training, and have to pass another board to be an ARNP. They work on the front line, and they don’t have this tool they need to help people. Are people saying the police have more education about mental health than the ARNPs?”
CCHR included a sample email for Scientologists to send to their senators and representatives…
The statistics included in the email are pulled from an annual report prepared for the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration by faculty at the University of South Florida. “The numbers they used are accurate, but the word ‘astounding’ didn’t come from our report,” says Annette Christy, the primary author of the report.
She tells us, “The number of certificates is going up, and that increase cannot be explained by the increase in the population of Florida. We’re probably going to exceed 200,000 for this year. Higher doesn’t necessarily mean bad. Some counties are instituting diversion programs from the criminal justice system like Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training, also known as the Memphis Model. It trains law enforcement to de-escalate incidents involving mental health to avoid booking people into jail when they can be Baker Acted instead. It helps avoid all the bad incidents that can happen with untreated individuals in jails.”
CCHR highlights the increase in the number of minors examined under the Baker Act. A December, 2016 article in the Tampa Bay Times quotes Dr. Myrna Hogue, supervisor of school social work services for Hillsborough County.
The numbers could be reflecting the emphasis on mental health training available to staff within Hillsborough County schools thanks to several federal grants the district received in recent years, said Dr. Myrna Hogue, supervisor of school social work services. With nearly 215,000 students, Hillsborough’s school district is also among the largest in the country.
Students can present symptoms of needing help in several ways, Hogue said, from coming forward to a teacher or making a remark that raises red flags in a homework assignment.
Parents also alert the school their child might be at risk. A suicide hotline recently called the district that a student made suicidal comments in an online chat room. The IT department tracked down what school computer was used and the student received help, Hogue said.
“We’re doing a lot of prevention and awareness,” she said. “Just because the number is big doesn’t mean that we’re doing something wrong in Hillsborough County. If anything, it means we’re trying to do something right.”
As controversial as the increase in Baker Act certificates is in Florida, Scientology’s opposition to it is visible only to its membership. Lawmakers and policy-makers do not receive CCHR’s objections, and the issue is certainly more complicated than they make it appear. Scientology continues to fight the psychs in the eyes of its membership while legislators, police and school officials continue to refine a system that is intended to prevent violence and suicide. If the bill to allow physician’s assistants and ARNPs to issue Baker Act certificates fails for the seventh consecutive session of the legislature, it will be hailed as a great victory by CCHR. The truth is that their efforts are invisible and the bill will probably fail the way it always has – without opposition, because of legislative gridlock or indifference.
— Rod Keller
Irish people watch ‘Orientation’
Pete Griffiths sent us this link, and we think we can now see why Ireland has been such a tough land for Scientology to plow.
Also, it reminds us that Larry Anderson, who stars in the film, has been under the weather and is recovering and we wish him a speedy recovery.
HowdyCon 2017: Denver, June 23-25. Go here to start making your plans.
Scientology disconnection, a reminder
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The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2016 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2016), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)
Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…
BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts
Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ
Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield