Discover How Baker Act Can Help You

What is the Baker Act?

It can be terrifying to watch a loved one have a severe mental illness, especially when they refuse treatment or do not understand the seriousness of their condition. However, Florida’s Baker Act provides a process to get individuals the treatment they need, even when it is against their wishes.

The Florida Mental Health Act, commonly known as the Baker Act, enables loved ones or others to request emergency mental health services for those who cannot or will not ask for help for themselves. Emergency services may include voluntary admission to a hospital or other receiving facility or involuntary admission if the person cannot understand the severity of their condition.

Legislators enacted the Baker Act to intercede on behalf of a person who has a mental illness who may cause harm to themselves or another but is not willing to seek treatment. Maxine Baker, a former Florida state representative, sponsored the Act, which was passed in 1971. Most states have enacted legislation similar to the Baker Act, but each state has its name for its specific legislation.

Behaviors that Indicate a Mental Health Crisis

In general, behaviors that can be considered indications of a mental emergency include the following: 

  • Hallucinations: Hearing voices or seeing things that are not there, especially when the hallucinations suggest self-harm or harm to others, are grounds for Baker Acting an individual. 
  • Suicidal Thoughts: A preoccupation with or threats of suicide can warrant a Baker Act in Florida. This is especially true when a person has access to weapons or has a history of self-harm. 
  • Not Able to Care for Themself: Declining to take care of basic needs, including sleep, eating, personal cleanliness, taking medications, or keeping up with their living space, would indicate a mental health evaluation may be necessary. 
The Baker Act is an existing law that provides for temporary institutionalization of individuals who meet certain criteria. 
The Baker Act is an existing law that provides for the temporary institutionalization of individuals who meet certain criteria. 
  • Depression and Hopelessness: Mood disorders, such as depression, that contribute to hopelessness or an inability to function daily would indicate treatment may be necessary.
  • Substance Use: While more appropriate for a Marchman Act, excessive substance abuse that hinders a person would be grounds for intervention.

Under What Circumstances is a Person Subject to the Baker Act?

The Florida statute states that a person may be transported to an approved receiving facility for involuntary examination if they meet all the following criteria:

  • They are mentally or emotionally impaired to the extent they cannot control their actions or understand reality. This does not include substance abuse impairment or developmental disability.
  • They have refused voluntary examination or cannot understand that a review is necessary because of a mental illness.
  • Without treatment, they may suffer personal neglect or may cause harm to themselves or others.

How Does the Process Work?

The Baker Act encourages individuals to seek voluntary mental health help. However, if an individual is not open to voluntary treatment for a severe mental health crisis, family members, health professionals, law enforcement, or others can ask the circuit court for an involuntary mental health examination.

Ordered by Court: A loved one or others can petition the Circuit Court to issue an ex parte order, an involuntary examination. If a judge grants the order, a law enforcement officer enforces the ruling by taking the person into custody and transporting them to the nearest receiving facility.

Court Hearing: The court must conduct the involuntary placement hearing within five days. A court-appointed public defender represents the person unless they have other legal representation. The defendant has the right to an independent expert examination provided by the court.

The court considers testimony and evidence regarding whether the person is competent to consent to treatment. If found not competent, the court appoints a guardian advocate.

If the court finds the person meets the criteria for involuntary placement, they issue an order remanding the individual to an inpatient mental health facility for up to six months. The court has the option to extend this period.

Ordered by Health Professional: Suppose the person received an examination by a physician, clinical psychologist, psychiatric nurse, or clinical social worker within the preceding 48 hours and was found to meet the criteria for involuntary examination. In that case, a law enforcement officer will transport the individual to the nearest receiving facility.

Examination: If a hospital admitted the person because of an emergency medical condition, a psychiatrist and a second mental health professional must examine within 72 hours to determine if a transfer to a receiving facility for medical treatment is appropriate. If the physician determines the person’s medical condition has stabilized or is not an emergency, one of the following must occur:

  • They are transferred to a receiving facility that offers appropriate medical treatment.
  • Suppose the examining doctor finds the person does not meet Baker Act criteria for involuntary admission to a receiving facility. In that case, they must release the person or transfer them to voluntary status.
  • If the examination took place at a receiving facility and a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist provides documentation supporting the person’s release, the person is released.

What Happens After the Involuntary Examination Period?

The involuntary examination period cannot exceed 72 hours for adults and 12 hours for minors. A clinical psychologist or a physician experienced in diagnosing and treating mental health disorders must examine the individual within that time. After completion of the examination, one of the following must happen:

  • The person is released unless charged with a crime.
  • Medical professionals file a petition with the circuit court for involuntary order.
  • The person gives informed consent for voluntary placement in a treatment facility.
  • The person is released for outpatient treatment.

The receiving facility cannot file a petition with the court for involuntary placement unless they have documented clear evidence the person is mentally ill, is in danger of self-neglect, and poses a threat to themselves or others.

Differences between The Baker Act vs. The Marchman Act

The Baker Act

Used to get a loved one emergency psychological care

Formally known as the Florida Mental Health Act of 1971, this statute provides involuntary mental health examination to an individual who either;

  • Is believed to have a mental illness
  • Is of harm to themselves or others (includes self-neglect)

While a person can Baker Act themselves, a Baker Act is initiated by doctors, judges, or police officers most of the time. However, during a crisis, such as threats of suicide or self-harm, a third party can submit an affidavit to get an individual “baker-acted” through the circuit court.

The Process

  • The individual is committed using another individual’s law enforcement officer, a physician, or an affidavit.
  • A law enforcement officer takes the person into custody and transports them to a receiving mental health facility.
  • The individual is examined and placed on a psychiatric hold for no more than 72 hours.
  • The patient is given a mental health evaluation, and further treatment is recommended based on the results.

The Florida Mental Health Act provides an option for loved ones who recognize that action must occur before an individual hurts themselves or others. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for addicts and alcoholics to feel so hopeless and helpless that they turn to suicide.

While it can seem extreme, involuntary commitment to psychiatric care has saved many addicts and alcoholics in the past. Moreover, it continues to serve as a necessary push into recovery for those who need it.

The Baker Act is a legal way to avoid this tragic end and assist a loved one when they can not decide for themselves.
The Baker Act is a legal way to avoid this tragic end and assist a loved one when they can not decide for themselves.

The Marchman Act

Used to get a loved one into substance abuse treatment

Florida’s Marchman Act is a statute that assists families in getting their loved ones court-ordered and monitored stabilization and long-term treatment for substance abuse. Enacted in 1993, this law allows for the involuntary assessment, stabilization, and treatment for those deemed unable to decide for themselves.

The Process

  • An affidavit is signed at the local county courthouse or clerk’s office.
  • A hearing is set before the court after a Petition for Involuntary Assessment and Stabilization is filed.
  • Following the hearing, the individual is held for five days for medical stabilization and assessment.
  • A Petition for Treatment must be filed with the court, and a second hearing is held for the court to review the assessment.
  • Based on the assessment and the recommendation that the individual needs extended help, the judge can then order a 60-day treatment period with a possible 90-day extension, if necessary.
  • If the addict exits treatment in violation of the judge’s order, the addict must return to court and answer to the court as to why they did not comply with treatment. Then the individual is born immediately for involuntary care.
  • If the addict refuses, they are held in civil contempt of court for not following treatment orders and are ordered to return to treatment or be incarcerated.

The Reality — In many cases, the threat or initial filing of the Marchman Act is enough to get reluctant addicts to agree to treatment to avoid legal and personal hassle.

Because addiction is a medical condition, the process is strictly confidential. All hearings are held in closed courtrooms, and all assessment and treatment records are protected by Federal HIPPA law.

What Else Do Family Members Need to Know?

If you have a loved one who has a mental illness and believe they are a threat to themselves or others, talk to a mental health professional or another person qualified to initiate the Baker Act. These professionals include:

  • Psychiatrists
  • Physicians with mental health training
  • Clinical Psychologists
  • Psychiatric Nurses
  • Clinical Social Workers
  • Licensed Mental Health Counselors
  • Judges
  • Law enforcement personnel

Adults can use the Baker Act to apply for voluntary admittance to an inpatient treatment facility. Parents can also use the Act to have their loved ones voluntarily admitted. The Baker Act requires “substantial” evidence, showing a person’s recent behavior suggests they pose a risk to themselves or others.

At We Level Up Treatment Center provides world-class care with round-the-clock medical professionals available to help you cope. In addition, we work as an integrated team providing information about the Baker Act and other aspects of treatment. Make this your opportunity to reclaim your life. Call today to speak with one of our treatment specialists. Our specialists know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions.

Your call is private and confidential, and there is never any obligation.

FAQs

Can you visit someone who is Baker Acted?

Yes, unless having visitors will be harmful to the person being treated. If a facility wants to restrict visitors from a patient, they must file a written notice documenting visitation refusal.

Do you call 911 to Baker Act someone?

If a person is actively endangering themself or others while showing symptoms of mental illness, the police can be called to manage the situation.

Alternatively, it can turn a request into the court to ask that an individual be mentally evaluated due to safety concerns.

Can you baker act yourself?

Yes, a Baker Act can be voluntary. However, to willingly Baker Act yourself, you must be considered capable of consenting to treatment. 

To Baker Act, yourself, visit an Emergency Room and describe your symptoms to medical professionals. Then, if necessary, the medical staff will request the Baker Act. 

Sources:

[1] FLSenate.Gov – https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2019/363/Analyses/h0363z2.CFS.PDF

[2] https://solutions.spcollege.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Baker-Act-Information.pdf