How Does The Florida Baker Act Work?

man signing the Florida Baker Act

How Does The Florida Baker Act Work?

The Florida Baker Act is a legal provision that permits qualified individuals, such as a doctor or mental health professional, to commit individuals to a mental health treatment provider for up to 72 hours. It is most commonly used if a person is thought to be a suicide risk, however, it may also be used for people who are homicidal.

This provision was introduced in the early 1970s under the Florida Mental Health Act, a law that returned rights to people with mental illness who were not thought to be a danger to themselves or others.[1]

The Baker Act is not meant to serve as mental health treatment, but rather to de-escalate potential crises and allow for a mental health evaluation to take place. The evaluation can help the family of the individual and the person themselves agree on a course of treatment. If the person is determined to be a danger to themself or others, however, they may be mandated to or asked to agree to attend a Delray Beach outpatient program.

What Criteria Needs to Be Met to Enact the Florida Baker Act?

While it is possible for a person to choose a voluntary Baker Act for themselves, many people are unwilling to agree to go to treatment. In cases such as these, a person can be temporarily committed to a treatment facility if they meet the three following criteria:

  • Mental illness is suspected
  • The individual is refusing voluntary treatment and doesn’t see why they need treatment
  • The person poses a threat to themselves or others or is incapable of caring for his or herself.

There are hundreds of different symptoms of mental illness, however, there are some that are more serious than others because they indicate an immediate crisis. Some symptoms and/or conditions that are considered a mental health emergency and may qualify for the Baker Act include:

  • Suicidal thoughts or actions
  • Inability to care for oneself
  • Hallucinations
  • Severe depression
  • Substance abuse (In some cases, drug and alcohol use may be better suited for the Marchman Act)

Who Can Baker Act Someone in Florida?

Friends, family, and co-workers are usually the first people to notice behavioral changes in loved ones. While your average citizen cannot force someone to get help, anyone can start the process by speaking to a qualified professional.

Professionals that are qualified to enact the Baker Act in Florida are:

  • Doctor/physician
  • Nurse practitioner
  • Psychiatrist
  • Clinical psychologist
  • Clinical social worker
  • Psychiatric nurse
  • Licensed mental health counselor
  • Licensed marriage and family therapist
  • Physician’s assistant
  • Law enforcement personnel

If you have a loved one who is experiencing a mental health crisis and is refusing help, you can speak to one of these individuals about starting the Baker Act process.

Filing For The Florida Baker Act

The fastest way to begin the process of involuntary committing someone to treatment is to call the police if the individual is threatening to hurt themselves or others or is appearing detached from reality. These types of cases are deemed emergencies where law enforcement and first responders may take the person to a hospital or mental health facility.

Once at the appropriate facility, medical and psychiatric personnel may provide an examination and declare a patient qualified or unqualified for involuntary commitment within 48 hours. However, if the person is not in immediate crisis or experiencing psychosis, it may not be appropriate to call 911.

Instead, another way to enact the Baker Act is to file a petition with the court asking them to order a mental health evaluation. The court will ask the petitioner to provide a written statement and any applicable medical documents to explain the details of the person’s mental health conditions as well as their reasons for requesting the Baker Act.

If petitioning the court is the route people take, the individual in question will be assigned a public defender while they appear before the court for a hearing. The court will review the evidence provided to them and the judge will determine whether or not the person qualifies for involuntary treatment. If the judge finds that the individual is at risk to themselves or others, the judge will enact the Baker Act, ordering law enforcement to deliver the patient to a mental health facility.

The Baker Act Process

Once the judge grants the Baker Act order, the individual will be taken to the treatment facility. This can be a court-assigned facility or one that is hand-picked by the family.

Upon arrival, the patient should be evaluated immediately by a physician or clinical psychologist. Patients cannot be held longer than 72 hours for their initial examination. During these 72 hours, one of the following must occur:[2]

  • The treatment facility must file a petition with the circuit court for involuntary treatment of the individual
  • The patient must be released if there is no need for further intervention and if the patient has not been formally charged with a crime
  • The treatment provider will ask the patient to provide voluntary consent for any needed treatment
  • The patient will be released with a recommendation to attend outpatient treatment

Find Help From a Delray Beach Outpatient Program Today

If you are considering filing for the Baker Act for a loved one, you’ll need to learn about your different treatment options. Nearly 50% of people who struggle with mental illness also have a problem with drug or alcohol abuse, and if that is your loved one, you will need a treatment provider that specializes in both addiction and mental health.[3]

Florida Recovery Group’s Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) is for those individuals who are able and willing to commit to a structured treatment program, which requires regular group attendance, active participation, and random drug/alcohol testing.

“We understand that each person in our IOP program comes with very diverse issues and problems. Our dedicated staff provides the support needed to maintain independence and sobriety on their road to recovery.”

If you’re looking for a Delray Beach outpatient program for your loved one, give us a call today.

References:

  1. https://ufhealth.org/baker-act
  2. http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index
  3. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/common-comorbidities-substance-use-disorders/