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The Baker Act in Florida allows doctors, mental health professionals, judges, and law enforcement to commit a person to a mental health treatment center for up to 72 hours if they display certain violent or suicidal signs of mental illness.

The purpose of the Florida Baker Act is to allow time for a mental health evaluation to be performed and to de-escalate a crisis. This evaluation will confirm whether the individual is experiencing a mental health issue, and if the person is determined not to be a danger to themself or others, they will be released after the holding period.

The act is named after former Florida representative Maxine Baker and was established in the early 1970s as part of the Florida Mental Health Act. Notably, this act restored rights to many individuals with mental health issues by releasing those that were not a danger to themselves or others. But what does the Baker Act process look like?

The Baker Act Process

risk of suicide

If a person is Baker Acted in Florida, they are taken to a mental health hospital that is also a Baker Act-receiving facility. At the receiving facility, the individual must be psychologically examined within 72 hours (the 72-hour timeframe begins as soon as the Florida Baker Act form is filed and they are admitted).

If the person is deemed to be dangerous by two different mental health professionals, they will be admitted to a mental health facility (either voluntarily or under involuntary inpatient placement). Less commonly, outpatient mental health treatment may be recommended for people with mental illness who do not need 24/7 care. 

If the person is not found to have any mental health issues, or they have a non-dangerous mental health issue, they will be released within the 72-hour period. 

Criteria for the Baker Act in Florida

In order to temporarily commit someone to a mental hospital they must meet the following criteria: 

  • The person is mentally ill (or is believed to be mentally ill).  
  • The person refuses a voluntary mental health evaluation or doesn’t understand why one would be necessary. 
  • The person is a threat to themself or others, or the person is incapable of caring for themself.

A person may also choose to a voluntary Baker Act, but they must be willing and able to consent to treatment.  

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 are suggesting 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. 
  • Depression and hopelessness: Mood disorders, such as depression, that contribute to hopelessness or an inability to function on a daily basis would indicate treatment may be necessary.
  • Substance use: While more appropriate for a Marchman Act, excessive substance abuse that incapacitates a person would be grounds for intervention.

How to Baker Act Someone in Florida

Parties that can enforce a Baker Act in Florida include the court and law enforcement, medical professionals, and mental health professionals. If you’re concerned for the safety of a friend or family member and feel a Baker Act is necessary to evaluate their mental health you have a few options. 

First, if a person is actively showing signs of severe mental illness, threatening to hurt themself or others, or appears detached from reality, calling the police will initiate the process of having that person Baker Acted immediately. 

Alternatively, you could ask the court to have a person’s mental health evaluated by filing a petition. In this case, you would need to provide a written statement that documents the details of the mental illness and the reasons for a Florida Baker Act. You can do this at the county’s Clerk of Court office (for example, if you are in the Port St. Lucie area you would contact the Martin County Clerk of Court). 

It is in the best interest of both parties if the person filing the petition takes the time to find the best mental health hospital and Baker Act-receiving facility to ensure that the transition into treatment is as smooth as possible. 

Marchman Act vs Baker Act: What’s the Difference?

The Marchman Act and Baker Act are similar but apply to different circumstances. Simply put, the difference between the Florida Marchman Act and Baker Act in Florida is that the Marchman Act concerns a person who is incapacitated due to substance abuse rather than mental illness. When initiating the Marchman Act, the same conditions must be met (the person is unable to care for themselves or is a threat to themself or others, is detached from reality, etc.).

When a person presents with both a mental illness and a substance use disorder, they are said to have co-occurring disorders or comorbidity. Co-occurring disorders are common, with one condition often leading to the other. In these situations, it’s imperative that conditions are treated simultaneously in dual diagnosis treatment, rather than one at a time. 

Dual Diagnosis Treatment in Port St. Lucie, Florida

dual diagnosis program

The Port St. Lucie Hospital is one of the dual diagnosis residential treatment centers in Florida that offers inpatient mental health and addiction treatment at the same time. As a Baker Act-receiving facility, we also offer crisis care for those suffering from acute psychiatric distress. The facility also offers medical detox services, which means that the multidisciplinary staff can treat a patient from crisis care admission to detox, to mental health and addiction treatment completion. 

In addition to these services, the Port St. Lucie hospital also offers adult and senior mental health programs, and a partial hospitalization program. Each of these programs can be tailored to individual patient needs.

We welcome you to our facility. From Baker Acts to dual diagnosis, support groups, and individual therapy treatment options, we are here to help you achieve long-term recovery. Reach out to us online today, or call us at (772) 238-7734.

FAQs About the Baker Act in Florida

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 the refusal of visitation.

Baker Acts must be imposed by the courts or law enforcement, or medical/mental health professionals. If a parent wants to have their child Baker Acted, they should petition the Clerk of Court or contact the police.

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

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

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. If necessary, the medical staff will request the Baker Act. 

When a person is Baker Acted in Florida they are taken to a mental health hospital that is also a Baker Act receiving facility. A mental evaluation must be performed within 72 hours.

After 72 hours if deemed mentally stable the person will be released. If further treatment is mandated, the individual can be admitted to a mental health facility for up to six months.

To be Backer Acted in Florida a person must meet certain criteria.

The individual must be showing signs of mental illness, a failure to understand why an evaluation may be needed, and/or posing a threat to themselves or others. Usually, a Baker Act is used in response to a mental health emergency.

A Baker Act can be started by medical professionals, the court system, and law enforcement.

Usually, being Baker Acted means that a person was admitted to a mental health hospital to be mentally assessed. The time a person can be held during the Baker Act is 72 hours. 

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