The Florida Mental Health Act of 1971, also known as the “Baker Act,” allows for the emergency involuntary commitment of an individual who cannot take such an action on their own behalf. Since its passage, the Baker Act has become a valuable tool for helping both addicts and the mentally ill find treatment.
What You Should Know About the Baker Act
The Act was named after Miami representative Maxine Baker, who had a keen interest in mental health and facilitating treatment to those who need it. Here is everything the family and friends of addicts need to know about it and how it may be utilized to provide care to their loved ones.
Who is Subject to the Baker Act?
Involuntary commitment is no trivial ordeal, and in order to qualify for a Baker Act proceeding, individuals must:
- Exhibit signs of mental illness (as stipulated in the Act’s language)
- Be a harm to themselves or others
It is important to note that the language of the Baker Act intentionally excludes addiction and other substance abuse disorders, as similar provisions are made in the Marchman Act. Nevertheless, this does not exclude addicts from qualifying for a Baker Act examination. Many addicts and alcoholics exhibit signs of suicidal behavior, self-harm and violence, which are in accordance with the Act’s language.
Who Can Initiate a Baker Act Petition?
- Adult (18+ years old)
- Can personally bear witness to the stipulations listed above
- Is willing to give sworn testimony to the stipulations listed above
You needn’t be a mental health or law enforcement official to initiate a petition. In fact, it has often been done by laypeople, doctors, judges and police men and women alike.
What Happens After You File a Petition?
After testifying that an individual is a harm to their self and/or others, and is possibly mentally ill:
- A civil officer will review your case
- They will make a recommendation to the court to either grant or deny your petition
- If granted, your petition will be signed by a judge
- Law enforcement receives orders to bring in the subject of the petition for examination
How Does the Examination Process Work?
If and when your petition is granted, the individual in question will be brought in for an evaluation. This process is conducted by a mental health specialist and may take up to 72 hours. It takes place in one of a hundred government-certified treatment facilities.
What Happens After the Examination?
Examinations may result in any number of scenarios. In accordance with the recommendation of the mental health professional, the subject of examination may be:
- Released back into the community (if deemed fit to do so)
- Involuntarily committed to inpatient/residential treatment
- Involuntarily committed to outpatient treatment (as per a 2005 reform to the Baker Act)
- Voluntarily placed into a treatment facility (if the subject consents to it)
In cases of involuntary commitment, the mental health facility conducting the examination must file a petition called an Involuntary Baker Act Treatment/Placement order. If granted by the court, the subject may remain in a treatment facility for up to 6 months.