The BAKER Act Topic at NAMI Charlotte County Meeting

Tuesday, October 21, 2014 @ 02:10 PM
Author: Chato Stewart

Tuesday, October 7th was NAMI Charlotte County meeting.  It was standing room only at Charlotte Behavioral Health Care (CBHC) in Punta Gorda.  With a panel from the F.A.C.T. Team, CBHC and Riverside Behavioral Center for a Q and A open format on a hot topic…The BAKER Act.

The Baker Act was set up in 1971 to protect the “rights of all individuals examined or treated for mental illness in Florida.”  But after 43 years, a lot has changed…most of the change is how it is funded and at present how one is “Baker Acted.”

States DCF Brochure: What Is Involuntary Examination and How Is It Conducted?

  • An involuntary exam is a psychiatric exam conducted without a person’s consent, often called “getting Baker Acted.”
  • Involuntary exams are initiated by:
    • Law enforcement officers (49%) (2011 stats)
    • Mental health professionals and physicians (49%) (2011 stats)
    • Circuit courts (2%) (2011 stats)

Criteria for involuntary exam are that the individual:

  • Appears to have a mental illness
  • Presents a danger to self or others
  • Refuses voluntary exam or is unable to understand need for exam

AT the NAMI Charlotte County meeting, I did not get a head count. I did help bring chairs over from the break room and in my mind’s eyes I can see about 32 people including the 3 panel members.

This was a special meeting for NAMI Charlotte County.  Special in the way that we had the big three providers at one locations for a fledgling group. Still, the topic matter is serious and many times very personal.  All the more reason, NAMI Charlotte County, needs to be back here in the Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda.

Yes, at the meeting, no one was pulling any punches with topics FACT TEAM Member, and River Side Rep and Vickie D’Agostino answering what could be answered – and – we needed to remind ourselves a few times that this is a process.  We talked about the Baker Act and its benefits.  While there are people on both sides of the fence on the BACKER ACT:  People living with mental health issues some times hate it and mothers and fathers sometimes feel it can be a blessing to get their child needed help.  Others feel it lacks teeth to do the job.  Still others are happy to avoid it all together and just volunteer themselves for evaluation. Then there are the Court ordered Backer Act’s. (A complex topic for sure.)

Vickie D’Agostino said “some of our (CBHC’s) most effective mental health programs are actually court ordered, when they don’t want treatment.”

It was surprising for me to hear that a huge part of the Baker Act law that would HELP the most – OUT patient treatment – was never funded!

Moving on to CIT.  DID you know?  YOU can REQUEST a CIT trained officer when you need help?  I am going to follow up on this and call the Charlotte Sheriff Department to talk to someone about this.  I would like to see if there is a way to do some type of test of the department CIT response in handling a matter…something like a fire drill.  The sheriffs receive 40 hours of CIT, but there is a HUGE difference between how it’s handle in a book and in a real life scenario.

I guess that is what the CIT training is for, I hear there is one coming up in November in Ft Myers.


Chato Stewart
Consumer Peer Ambassador


Video Credits:
NAMI Charlotte County Re-Cape Video
Victoria D’Agostino, LMHC
Chief Operating Officer
Charlotte Behavioral Health Care
Jesse Babcock III, LCSW,
Administrator of Riverside Behavioral Center.
NAMI Charlotte County
Video By 
Chato Stewart
Consumer Peer Ambassador

What is Needed to Control Mood Swings?

Thursday, October 9, 2014 @ 02:10 PM
Author: Chato Stewart

1474 Mental Health Humor by Chato Stewart bipolar mood swing

Bipolar mood swings and all mental health moods swings have many of the same characteristics.  Experts define mood swings related to mental disorder as a “significant dysfunction in a person’s thinking, emotional control, and behavior.

The point where you “swing from one emotion to the next, some times as fast as the time it take to swing up and back on a swing set. Hot and cold, depressed and manic or mad at the world and loving every thing the next moment.

These conditions as you may know first hand, like me, in my Mental Health Humor Bipolar Moods Swing cartoon…often disrupts a person’s life.  Their “ability to relate to others” in a non-highest-emotional-state or ready to snap back at you with a verminous bite or to crumble in sorrow.  It’s not normal to have to deal with the daily, hourly, minutely and down to the second demands of mood swings and what they put on the quality of life.  Not when we live in a world where mental illness can be treated. What do we need to do first?

What is Needed to Control Mood Swings?

  • Educating ourselves about our illness.
  • Tracking our triggers that cause our moods – people ~ food ~ exercise ~ meds ~ supplements.
  • Talking about our mood without the word “you” – “you always|you never|you don’t” instead use the word “I”…I feel (Don’t add YOU here.)”
  • Seeking professional help – mental illness can be treated – Don’t suffer in silence.
  • SLEEP – Impacts our body – and our mind.
  • YOU need YOU to control your moods – take responsibility for it and act.
Chato Stewart
Consumer Peer Ambassador

Dealing With Mental Disorders 9 Things to Do

Monday, October 6, 2014 @ 04:10 PM
Author: Chato Stewart
When a physical illness strikes a family, It’s difficult. When mental illness strikes a family, it’s distressing. When both strike at the same time, it’s devastating.
Yet, we all know through experience, that illness is a temporary state of affairs.. The worse days don’t last all too long. Before we fully realize, wellness is back around again. If only wellness recovery would stay forever.
My wife and sister who make up a big part part of my support system – a network system of support is something every one should have living with Bipolar Disorder, or any “disorder.”
I appreciate my supportive family members, even thought they sometimes done understand what I’m going thought all the time.  They try to understand and encourage me to keep going especially if I am having a tough day.  My sister saved my file when I was suicidal.  Having a network does work and does save lives.
My wife and sister both stay educated on mental illness and recently they both read an encouraging article on mental disorders and how loved ones can cope. Today my sister texted me with an articled with the following 9 things to do:

 Dealing With Mental Disorders-9 Things to Do:

1. Follow the treatment prescribed by qualified mental-health professionals. 
2. Maintain a balanced and stable daily routine.
3. Stay physically active.
4. Get enough sleep.
5. Take time each day to relax.
6. Eat a nutritious and balanced diet.
7. Limit alcohol consumption and drugs that are not prescribed for you.
8.Avoid isolation; spend time with people whom you trust and who care for you.
9.Give attention to your spiritual needs.
Any illness presents its own unique challenges to overcome. Mental disorders and mental illnesses challenge the love and the respect and the positive coping skills/strategies of all family members and parties involved. It’s empowering when we can help and support each other to keep going the best we can taking it day by day.
How can families, friends and loved ones better manage mental disorders without destroying precious, irreplaceable relationships? (Illness as well as stress from coping with illness can take a heavy toll.) Any tools that we should be aware of that we need to help mend and fix families and relationships that are coping with mental illness and/or various mental disorders?
Be forgiving and keep listening and loving each other through the difficult days. Remember, a difficult day is only 24 hours long.
Even when we are sick, we cannot lose sight of the big picture, that life is a precious gift and so are family and friends. Let’s follow these practical tips and help carry each other through the hard days…thereby making life a little easier for all of us in particular our beloved sick family members.
Awake! December 2014 Dealing With Mental Disorders


Charlotte County Walked for Suicide Prevention 2014

Thursday, September 11, 2014 @ 02:09 PM
Author: Chato Stewart

On the evening of September 10th, I joined others from Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda and Charlotte County to walk for suicide prevention at Gilchrist Park, Punta Gorda.
Jay Glenn SP walk

After the walk, there was a Yellow Rose ceremony for those loved ones lost to their illness.

Being a big guy, with bad knees, I was not able to walk the full route.  However, this year, I walked some of it.  I was able to get a few good pictures and videos.  The above photo is of Jay Glynn, CEO at CBHC. I was able to video the Yellow Rose ceremony.

I am waling for me.What will personally stick with me the most?  What someone said about what I wrote: “who” I was walking for?…I wrote: “ME.”  I did not write it as a joke because I’m a Mental Health Humor cartoonist. NO, but as a serious statement of a living/breathing participant…Something my Bipolar Disorder almost took away from me in 2008.  (I did not expect anyone to notice or say anything about me writing: walking for “ME.”)

One woman, who was walking for suicide prevention, approached me at the end of the walk to commend me for personally walking for…”ME.”

She and I talked for a bit. Her amazing story was so empowering. I asked if she would say a few words on video for my readers…What she said next are the most powerful words you should never forget if you live with a mental health disorder.

Here is what she said:

You are not alone, say it now: say it again, “You’re not alone!”

Words that, at the right time, can save a life! Something we should write down and repeat daily to remind us we are never alone. These simple words of hope can hold so much power…Yes, if the words are coming from the right source, from the right person and at the right time!

Chato Stewart
Consumer Peer Ambassador


Warning Signs of Suicide

Tuesday, September 9, 2014 @ 02:09 PM
Author: Chato Stewart
Please click here to go to the main World Suicide Prevention Day </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Web page
It is Suicide Prevention Awareness Walk time! Please join us at Gilchrist Park, Punta Gorda at 7:00 pm.
All of us must be vigilant to prevent suicide. How do we know if our loved one is suicidal or not? Do You know the warning signs for which to look? Keep on the watch..all night if needed. You could save a precious life! We can all be a life guard.

Warning Signs of Suicide

    • Withdrawal and isolation from family and peers
    • Use of alcohol and drugs
    • Decline in school/work performance
    • Increased irritability
    • Dramatic change in dress, activities or friends
    • Giving away of possessions
    • Discussion of suicide
    • Changes in sleep or appetite
    • Chronic medical illness
    • Loss of physical function
    • Depression
    • Hopelessness
    • Isolation
Please click here: “The Warning Signs of Partner Suicide“.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline ‘1-800-273-TALK (82…

If you are in crisis, please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or visit
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