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What is the Florida Baker Act?

Watching a loved one suffer from a mental health condition can be extremely distressing. It is especially scary when your loved one refuses to attend treatment for a severe case of mental illness. Unfortunately, many people who struggle with severe mental health symptoms are unable to identify their need for treatment on their own. 

Because of the frequency of individuals with mental health conditions refusing treatment, many states, including Florida, have put involuntary commitment laws in place. These laws allow you to force your loved one into treatment for mental health or substance abuse if they meet the criteria and are considered to need this type of intervention. 

The Florida Baker Act is a law that allows the loved ones of mentally ill individuals to force them into mental health treatment. If you live in Florida and have a loved one who struggles with mental health, being aware of what the Florida Baker Act is and how it works can help you get your loved one the treatment they need.

Understanding the Florida Baker Act 

The Florida Baker Act allows you to submit a petition to have your loved one involuntarily committed to mental health treatment when they are suffering from severe mental illness. 

Doctors, mental health professionals, judges, and law enforcement can commit your loved one to a mental health center for up to 72 hours if they display harmful behaviors towards themselves or others. 

During this 72-hour hold, they will undergo a psychiatric assessment to determine any further action that needs to be taken. If your loved one is found to be a danger to themselves or others by two different mental health professionals, they will be either voluntarily or involuntarily admitted to a long-term mental health treatment facility. If they are not found to be currently dangerous, they will be released after the 72 hours is over.

What are the Criteria for The Florida Baker Act?

To prevent individuals from being wrongfully involuntarily committed to a mental health facility, certain criteria must be met under the Florida Baker Act. 

If an individual meets the three following criteria, they qualify for forceful mental health treatment:[1]

  • There is reason to believe they are mentally ill and suffering from mental and emotional processing impairment that causes them to be unable to perceive or understand reality.
  • The person has refused voluntary mental health treatment as a direct result of their mental illness.
  • Without mental health care, the individual will suffer from substantial harm or cause others substantial harm. Additionally, this must be a real or perceived harm that cannot be prevented or avoided without professional intervention. 

It is important to note that the Florida Baker Act does not work for individuals who are suffering from substance abuse, intellectual disability, or developmental disability.

Behaviors that Indicate a Baker Act is Necessary

The only time you should consider using the Florida Baker Act is when your loved one is experiencing a mental health emergency. 

Mental health emergencies can present an array of varying symptoms. In other words, suicidal or homicidal thoughts and behaviors are not the only mental health emergencies that require involuntary hospitalization. 

The behaviors that indicate an involuntary commitment is necessary may include:

  • Hallucinations – hearing or seeing things that are not there, especially when the hallucinations are causing self-harm or violence towards others. 
  • Being unable to care for oneself – neglecting to take care of personal needs including sleeping, eating, self-hygiene, taking medications, or cleaning the home in a manner that causes harm to themselves or others.
  • Suicidal ideation – experiencing frequent thoughts or expressions of suicide, especially when the individual has access to weapons or has a history of self-harm and suicide attempts.
  • Symptoms of psychosis – loss of contact with reality that includes symptoms of hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, agitation, and speaking incoherently. 

Severe cases of substance use disorders could also indicate a mental health emergency, however, this is more appropriate for the Marchman Act of Florida. In some cases of substance abuse, mental health professionals or law enforcement officers will suggest a Baker Act if a mental health condition is co-occurring. 

What is the Difference Between the Marchman Act and Baker Act?

Florida’s Baker Act and Marchman act are very similar. However, while the Baker Act is designed for individuals suffering from mental health issues, the Marchman Act is for substance abuse-related emergencies.

The criteria for both involuntary commitment processes are similar, however, the Marchman Act is based on substance abuse and addiction. To explain, individuals can be involuntarily committed to an addiction treatment center under the Marchman Act if they present a danger to themselves or others due to their drug or alcohol abuse.

To put it simply, the Baker Act is used to assess and treat individuals with mental illnesses, and the Marchman Act is used to assess and treat people with substance use disorders.

Finding Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment for a Loved One

If you or a loved one suffer from a mental health condition, a substance use disorder, or both, a dual diagnosis treatment center can help you regain control of your life. At Mandala Healing Center, we provide individualized treatment plans to each of our patients to ensure that all of their mental health and addiction recovery needs are met.

For more information on the dual diagnosis treatment program at Mandala Healing Center, contact us today.