What is the Baker Act?

What is the Baker Act?

Many times, people who are struggling with a mental health condition and addiction simultaneously have a very difficult time finding the help that they need. Addiction itself is classified as a mental health disorder, and when co-occurring conditions exist, the Baker Act and the Marchman Act can provide a path to treatment in Florida.

If someone you know and care about refuses to seek treatment and may pose a danger to themselves or others, these legal routes offer an opportunity for you to take meaningful action on their behalf. There are important differences between the Baker Act and the Marchman Act, and different criteria that will allow a court to order a mental health evaluation or court-ordered treatment.

What Is the Baker Act?

What does the Baker Act mean? The Florida Baker Act law allows certain individuals and professionals to place a person who meets specific criteria into a mental health treatment center. This gives mental health professionals 72 hours to determine if that individual is a danger to themselves or others.

Established in the early 1970s, the Baker Act requirements actually restored rights to individuals who were involuntarily committed but did not pose a danger to anyone. It is named after Maxine Baker, who helped to establish this law as part of the Florida Mental Health Act

Taking this serious step can save lives, especially if your loved one is not thinking clearly or is unable to make reasonable decisions for themselves. An emergency mental health evaluation is appropriate if you believe someone is at risk of becoming violent or commiting suicide due to a mental health disorder. 

The Baker Act Process

Only certain professionals can initiate an involuntary Baker Act proceeding. These include law enforcement officers, medical professionals, and mental health professionals. If you believe that someone you know urgently needs a mental health evaluation or involuntary alcohol and drug treatment assessment, you will usually need to call the police to start the process.

It is possible to file a Baker Act petition directly with the Clerk of Court, which will need to include details about the Baker Act patient’s mental illness and an explanation of how they present a danger of violent or self-damaging behavior. Taking this direct approach is easier with a Baker Act lawyer to advise you.

If you are in law enforcement or health care and believe one of your patients is a danger to themselves or other people, the Baker Act in Florida is a reliable way to get them the help they need. This is the process to Baker Act someone in Florida. Other states with Baker Act style legislation have similar requirements.

How to Baker Act Someone in Florida

  • Once a petition is filed, the court will review it and determine if the individual meets the Florida Baker Act criteria.
  • If the court orders an emergency mental health evaluation, the person will be taken to a mental health facility for 72 hours (minors for 12 hours).
  • Two different mental health professionals will examine the patient and decide if the patient is at risk for violence or self-harm.
  • If both mental health professionals recommend treatment, the patient has an opportunity to voluntarily comply.
  • If the individual will not agree to the recommendations of the doctors, ex parte Baker Act treatment can be ordered.
  • Treatment may be inpatient or outpatient, and may involve involuntary commitment that will continue until the patient no longer presents a danger.

Requirements for Court-Ordered Baker Act Treatment

In order for the court to approve the initial Baker Act petition, the following must be true:

  • The person is known to be mentally ill, or there is evidence of mental illness.
  • The individual refuses to participate in a voluntary mental health evaluation, or is unable to recognize a problem exists.
  • There is evidence that the person is a threat to themselves or other people, or that they are incapable of caring for themselves. 
  • OR, the person is able to understand their need for treatment and/or their inability to make decisions about treatment and agrees to self Baker Act.
  • The person is experiencing a mental health emergency, with life-threatening symptoms like these:
    • Hallucinations
    • Suicidal thoughts
    • Severe depression
    • Substance abuse

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

While the Baker Act can be used when an addiction has reached the point of endangering a person’s life, when it comes to substance abuse intervention help, the Marchman Act is more commonly used in Florida. If you are considering the Marchman Act vs. the Baker Act, keep these factors in mind:

  • Both the Marchman Act and the Baker Act allow a person to be held for 72 hours for involuntary examination.
  • If the reason the individual is unable to recognize their need for treatment is due to a mental health disorder, the Baker Act is appropriate.
  • If the reason the individual cannot or will not agree to enter treatment is due to a substance use disorder, the Marchman Act is used.
  • The two laws may overlap, because addiction is classified as a mental health disorder, so in some cases either path might be appropriate.
  • Involuntary commitment is limited to 90 days, with one renewal of 90 days under the Marchman Act.
  • Involuntary commitment under the Baker Act will continue until the patient has improved to the point that they can safely care for themselves, a guardian is appointed to make decisions for them, or they agree to voluntary treatment.

What Happens After the Baker Act?

In cases where the person has a mental condition and addiction side by side, these are called co-occurring disorders. It is very common for addiction to go hand in hand with depression, PTSD, or other mental health challenges. In these cases, the person under the Baker Act order may go to a Florida rehab or addiction treatment center.

We specialize in Marchman and Baker Act Florida substance abuse treatment. Our team of professionals can help develop the right long-term addiction treatment plan for those who are struggling to accept treatment or remain in recovery. Contact us today for guidance on pursuing help for someone who is unable to help themselves.

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