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Rep. Daphne Campbell to press: Nevermind

To speed up the political process, Miami Rep. Daphne Campbell called a press conference Wednesday afternoon to highlight a bill she's sponsoring that expands the authority of nurse practitioners and physician assistants to order the involuntary committment of a patient who could hurt themselves or others under the state's Baker Act.

Under current law, a physician, police officer and counselor can commit someone who might be mentall ill, but not nurse practitioners, who have additional training and education, Campbell said.

 "A police officer on the street can Baker Act a patient and not a nurse practitioner, who has two licenses?" said the Democratic legislator, who is a registered nurse but not a nurse practitioner. "They're well, well educated."

Her bill passed the House by 116-0 on March 13th but the Senate version hasn't yet been heard "We called the press today to spread the word for us to be sure the Senate agendas the bill and the governor signs it," Campbell said. She was joined by Michelle Vasilinda, D-Tallahasse, Rep. Hazelle Rogers, D-Lauderdale Lakes, and several nurse practitioners at a press conference though the Senate sponsor, Anitere Flores, R-Miami, was not present.

Near the end of the conference, Campbell got "breaking news." She received a message that Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, put the bill on the agenda for Monday's Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee meeting. So did reporters really need to ask more questions?

Nurse practitioners are eager to answer any concerns about their ability to handle an expanded role, which they say would help patients and community safety.

Stan Whittaker, a nurse practitioner from the Panhandle, said he was typical of many nurse practitioners who work in areas where there aren't a lot of physicians. "I worked in rural settings where few physicians have offices and access to care is difficult in these areas."

Whittaker said he is required to evaluate a patient and complete the forms, "but we're unable to sign them." If a physician isn't present, law enforcment is called and a troubled patient may be afraid of being arrested. "They end up leaving and not getting the help they need," he said. Whittaker said one suicidal man changed his story to the police, left the clinic and two hours was found dead "all because of a lack of a signature and a piece of paper."