BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Bay District Schools has reported 122 notifications referring to all types of emergencies. This number includes a staggering number of Baker Acts in the district.
According to district officials, there have been 67 Baker Acts (of the 122 notifications) since the schools reopened November 5th; 62 Baker Acts since returning from winter break; and 26 Baker Acts in the last two weeks.
Looking at the school year holistically, there have been 632 student Community of Care referrals. These are referrals made to various agencies.
"It's really hard to pinpoint whether or not there is an actual increase in the number of Baker Acts in Bay County," Kara Mulkusky, Director of Student Services for Bay District Schools, said.
This is for a number of reasons.
"Traditionally, when Baker Acts took place, maybe law enforcement responded to a home or even at the school level, we weren't really being strategic about our reporting and documentation," Mulkusky explained.
Now, she said the district is being more diligent in its tracking, with events like the Parkland Massacre and Hurricane Michael being cautionary tales for mental health awareness.
"The main receiving facility that we have available here in Bay County is Life Management Center. We used to also have Emerald Coast Behavioral, but right now, they have received such damage from the hurricane that they're not able to receive students for Baker Act situations," Mulkusky said.
The school district and Life Management have teamed up to develop the Mobile Response Team, a program discussed before Hurricane Michael.
"It's crisis intervention. It is, it's a way to intervene and de-escalate a situation, keep it from getting worse," Tricia Pearce, Community Relations Specialist of Life Management Center, said.
Whether it's a heightened awareness or stressors such as Hurricane Michael contributing to the uptick in cases, the school district and community partners are remaining aware and ready to help.
Mulkusky said, "We're able to make sure that we're supporting those students with what they need, once we do know about a Baker Act."
More information about Life Management's services can be found at lmccares.org.