Florida Senate - 2022 SB 1120
By Senator Rodriguez
1 A bill to be entitled
2 An act relating to child welfare; amending s. 39.407,
3 F.S.; authorizing the Department of Children and
4 Families, under certain circumstances, to place
5 children in its custody in therapeutic group homes for
6 residential mental health treatment without prior
7 court approval; revising definitions; defining the
8 term “therapeutic group home”; providing that the
9 department, rather than the Agency for Health Care
10 Administration, shall appoint qualified evaluators to
11 conduct suitability assessments of certain children in
12 the department’s custody; specifying qualifications
13 for evaluators conducting suitability assessments for
14 placement in a therapeutic group home; revising
15 requirements for suitability assessments; specifying
16 when the department must provide a copy of the
17 assessment to the guardian ad litem and the court;
18 revising the department’s and the agency’s rulemaking
19 authority; providing an effective date.
21 Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
23 Section 1. Subsection (6) of section 39.407, Florida
24 Statutes, is amended to read:
25 39.407 Medical, psychiatric, and psychological examination
26 and treatment of child; physical, mental, or substance abuse
27 examination of person with or requesting child custody.—
28 (6) Children
who are in the legal custody of the department
29 may be placed by the department, without prior approval of the
30 court, in a residential treatment center licensed under s.
31 394.875, a therapeutic group home, or a hospital licensed under
32 chapter 395 for residential mental health treatment only
33 pursuant to this section or may be placed by the court in
34 accordance with an order of involuntary examination or
35 involuntary placement entered pursuant to s. 394.463 or s.
36 394.467. All children placed in a residential treatment program
37 under this subsection must have a guardian ad litem appointed.
38 (a) As used in this subsection, the term:
39 2. 1. “Residential treatment” or “residential treatment
40 program” means a placement for observation, diagnosis, or
41 treatment of an emotional disturbance in a residential treatment
42 center licensed under s. 394.875, a therapeutic group home, or a
43 hospital licensed under chapter 395.
44 1. 2. “Least restrictive alternative” means the treatment
45 and conditions of treatment that, separately and in combination,
46 are no more intrusive or restrictive of freedom than reasonably
47 necessary to achieve a substantial therapeutic benefit or to
48 protect the child or adolescent or others from physical injury.
49 3. “Suitable for residential treatment” or “suitability”
50 means a determination concerning a child or adolescent with an
51 emotional disturbance as defined in s. 394.492(5) or a serious
52 emotional disturbance as defined in s. 394.492(6) that each of
53 the following criteria is met:
54 a. The child requires residential treatment.
55 b. The child is in need of a residential treatment program
56 and is expected to benefit from mental, emotional, or behavioral
57 health treatment.
58 c. An appropriate, less restrictive alternative to
59 residential treatment is unavailable.
60 4. “Therapeutic group home” means a 24-hour residential
61 program providing community-based mental health treatment and
62 mental health support services to children who meet the criteria
63 in s. 394.492(5) or (6) in a nonsecure, homelike setting that
64 meets the requirements of a single-family unit or a community
65 residential home as defined in s. 419.001. Notwithstanding s.
66 419.001(1)(a), a therapeutic group home may provide a living
67 environment for up to 16 unrelated residents.
68 (b) Whenever the department believes that a child in its
69 legal custody is emotionally disturbed and may need residential
70 treatment, an examination and suitability assessment must be
71 conducted by a qualified evaluator who is appointed by the
72 department Agency for Health Care Administration. This
73 suitability assessment must be completed before the placement of
74 the child in a residential treatment program center for
75 emotionally disturbed children and adolescents or a hospital.
76 1. The qualified evaluator for placement in a residential
77 treatment center or a hospital must be a psychiatrist or a
78 psychologist licensed in this state Florida who has at least 3
79 years of experience in the diagnosis and treatment of serious
80 emotional disturbances in children and adolescents and who has
81 no actual or perceived conflict of interest with any inpatient
82 facility or residential treatment center or program.
83 2. The qualified evaluator for placement in a therapeutic
84 group home must be a psychiatrist licensed under chapter 458, a
85 psychologist licensed under chapter 490, or a mental health
86 counselor licensed under chapter 491 who has at least 2 years of
87 experience in the diagnosis and treatment of serious emotional
88 or behavioral disturbance in children and adolescents and who
89 has no actual or perceived conflict of interest with any
90 residential treatment center or program.
91 (c) Consistent with the requirements of this section Before
92 a child is admitted under this subsection, the child shall be
93 assessed for suitability for residential treatment by a
94 qualified evaluator who has conducted an a personal examination
95 and assessment of the child and has made written findings that:
96 1. The child appears to have an emotional disturbance
97 serious enough to require treatment in a residential treatment
98 program and is reasonably likely to benefit from the treatment.
99 2. The child has been provided with a clinically
100 appropriate explanation of the nature and purpose of the
102 3. All available modalities of treatment less restrictive
103 than residential treatment have been considered, and a less
104 restrictive alternative that would offer comparable benefits to
105 the child is unavailable.
107 A copy of the written findings of the evaluation and suitability
108 assessment must be provided to the department, to the guardian
109 ad litem, and, if the child is a member of a Medicaid managed
110 care plan, to the plan that is financially responsible for the
111 child’s care in residential treatment, all of whom must be
112 provided with the opportunity to discuss the findings with the
114 (d) Immediately upon placing a child in a residential
115 treatment program under this section, the department must notify
116 the guardian ad litem and the court having jurisdiction over the
117 child. Within 5 days after the department’s receipt of the
118 assessment, the department shall and must provide the guardian
119 ad litem and the court with a copy of the assessment by the
120 qualified evaluator.
121 (e) Within 10 days after the admission of a child to a
122 residential treatment program, the director of the residential
123 treatment program or the director’s designee must ensure that an
124 individualized plan of treatment has been prepared by the
125 program and has been explained to the child, to the department,
126 and to the guardian ad litem, and submitted to the department.
127 The child must be involved in the preparation of the plan to the
128 maximum feasible extent consistent with his or her ability to
129 understand and participate, and the guardian ad litem and the
130 child’s foster parents must be involved to the maximum extent
131 consistent with the child’s treatment needs. The plan must
132 include a preliminary plan for residential treatment and
133 aftercare upon completion of residential treatment. The plan
134 must include specific behavioral and emotional goals against
135 which the success of the residential treatment may be measured.
136 A copy of the plan must be provided to the child, to the
137 guardian ad litem, and to the department.
138 (f) Within 30 days after admission, the residential
139 treatment program must review the appropriateness and
140 suitability of the child’s placement in the program. The
141 residential treatment program must determine whether the child
142 is receiving benefit toward the treatment goals and whether the
143 child could be treated in a less restrictive treatment program.
144 The residential treatment program shall prepare a written report
145 of its findings and submit the report to the guardian ad litem
146 and to the department. The department must submit the report to
147 the court. The report must include a discharge plan for the
148 child. The residential treatment program must continue to
149 evaluate the child’s treatment progress every 30 days thereafter
150 and must include its findings in a written report submitted to
151 the department. The department may not reimburse a facility
152 until the facility has submitted every written report that is
154 (g)1. The department must submit, at the beginning of each
155 month, to the court having jurisdiction over the child, a
156 written report regarding the child’s progress toward achieving
157 the goals specified in the individualized plan of treatment.
158 2. The court must conduct a hearing to review the status of
159 the child’s residential treatment plan no later than 60 days
160 after the child’s admission to the residential treatment
161 program. An independent review of the child’s progress toward
162 achieving the goals and objectives of the treatment plan must be
163 completed by a qualified evaluator and submitted to the court
164 before its 60-day review.
165 3. For any child in residential treatment at the time a
166 judicial review is held pursuant to s. 39.701, the child’s
167 continued placement in residential treatment must be a subject
168 of the judicial review.
169 4. If at any time the court determines that the child is
170 not suitable for continued residential treatment, the court
171 shall order the department to place the child in the least
172 restrictive setting that is best suited to meet his or her
174 (h) After the initial 60-day review, the court must conduct
175 a review of the child’s residential treatment plan every 90
177 (i) The department may adopt rules to administer this
178 subsection must adopt rules for implementing timeframes for the
179 completion of suitability assessments by qualified evaluators
180 and a procedure that includes timeframes for completing the 60
181 day independent review by the qualified evaluators of the
182 child’s progress toward achieving the goals and objectives of
183 the treatment plan which review must be submitted to the court.
184 The Agency for Health Care Administration must adopt rules for
185 the registration of qualified evaluators, the procedure for
186 selecting the evaluators to conduct the reviews required under
187 this section, and a reasonable, cost-efficient fee schedule for
188 qualified evaluators.
189 Section 2. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.