PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — Changes are coming to the way mental health patients are treated in Northwest Florida.

Emergency rooms inundated with mental health patients is what sparked a conversation.

“We, just as a community, came together and said we’ve got to do something better,” LifeView Group CEO Allison Hill said.

Florida’s Baker Act allows law enforcement, a court or doctors to commit someone for a mental health evaluation for at least 72 hours if they are a danger to themselves or others.

Now, there will be a central receiving system for these patients. Adults will go to the Lakeview Center. Children and teenagers will go to Baptist Hospital.

“Under a central receiving system, there is a central point of access where all Baker Acts are received,” Hill said. “The triage, the assessment, the evaluation is performed. If you can divert to community services like those that Lakeview offers, then that happens. If inpatient admission is the most appropriate level of care then referrals are made to the two hospitals in town that have inpatient psychiatric services.”

In recent years, the state of Florida has increased funding for mental health services, but Hill said it’s still not enough.

“Florida ranks 48th, 49th, I think, in the country in terms of funding for behavioral health, but we are making progress,” she said.

Right now, they are going through the licensing process, onboarding staff, and getting space renovated in these locations. They expect to have everything up and running by the end of 2023.