DeGroot Answers Critics, Offers Story Idea

The latest from John DeGroot, this time on the steep increase in Baker Act exams for people involuntarily committed to the nuthouse for being a danger to themselves and/or others:

Okay. I will try to be positive.

Because last week, a Pulp Blog reader properly scolded me for being a negative Cassandra of local journalism in my regular rants re the Decline and Fall of Journalism in South Florida. While another charged that I “hate” the Sun-Sentinel.

Fair enough.

First, I do not “hate” the newspaper from which I retired after 21 years. Rather, I admit to a toxic dose of on-going rage spawned by what the newspaper could have been --- given its stunning potential back when it was the fastest-growing newspaper in Florida.

Or more to the point: Why in God’s name is today’s Sun-Sentinel so routinely boring?

Basically, I was taught – and still believe – that a newspaper’s primary goal should be to surprise its readers by offering them a daily feast of interesting and well-told stories. Trouble is, aside from it’s Sports Pages, I find the Sun-Sentinel to be the least surprising and interesting newspaper in South Florida (which may explain why it’s losing readers at a dramatically greater rate than the Miami Herald and Palm Beach Post).

Or as Kurt Vonnegut once said, “It’s a writer’s job to know what is interesting and what is not.” Which, in the case of the Sun-Sentinel, its editors obviously don’t. Even worse, the editors at the Sun-Sentinel are so unimaginative and uncreative that they’ve taken to asking their readers (via market surveys and focus groups) what’s – gasp – “interesting.” Which is a tragic metaphor of how bad things are among the Pod People high atop 200 East Las Olas.

And, as for the Pulp Blog reader who properly scolded me as a

negative Cassandra guilty of pointing out problems devoid of solutions……

I offer the basics for a potentially surprising and interesting news story I have not seen in our local media --- this based on data easily gathered from Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration.

“INSANITY IN PARADISE – A GROWTH INDUSTRY.”

Hint to the creatively challenged editors at the Sun-Sentinel: This might be worth more than a brief. Personally, I’d start by seeking an intelligent answer to the most obvious question raised by the data which is, Why have potentially dangerous acts of insane behavior mushroomed six times faster than the general population in SE Florida?

………..BAKER ACT EXAMINATIONS – 5 YEAR TRENDS

………For ”Involuntary Placement” in mental health crisis unit

……………………..as a danger to self or others

……..…..………………2001……………2005………….% change FLORIDA

General Population…..16,330,601……18,018,497…….10%

Baker Act Exams……..95,990………...125,575………...31%

Initiated By:

- Mental Health Prof….51,822…………59,721………….15%

- Law Enforcement…...44,795…………58,406………....30%

- Judges………………..3,541…………..4,079…………..15%

BROWARD

General Population…...1,649,925……..1,746,603……....6%

Baker Act Exams.……..7,147…………..9,828…………..38%

MIAMI DADE

General Population……2,285,869……..2,432,276………6%

Baker Act Exams. ….…8,797…………..12,334………....40%

PALM BEACH

General Population……1,154,464……...1,272,335….....10%

Baker Act Exams…..…..5,605…………..8,657……….....54%

TOTAL SE FLORIDA

General Population…….5,090.258……..5,451,214….......7%

Baker Act Exams..……..21,549…………30,819…………43%

REST OF STATE

General Population…….11,240,343……12,564,283……12%

Baker Act Exams……….74,441…………94,756…………27%

SOURCE: Florida Agency for Health Care Administration

“2005 – Florida Mental Health (Baker Act) Report”


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