In this post, we will review the Florida Baker Act and answer questions like “can I baker act myself.” We will also outline your rights during the Baker Act process as well as treatment options after you finish getting help.
What is the Florida Baker Act?
Many people ask “what is the Baker Act?” The Baker Act is a law in the state of Florida that allows family members and mental health professionals to provide emergency mental health services and to temporarily detain someone who is impaired and is determined to be a threat to themselves or others. People who require the Baker Act typically cannot commit to safety and need help immediately. Examples of conditions that might warrant the Baker Act are suicidal or homicidal thoughts and urges, especially when there is a clear plan or intent to cause harm, severe and debilitating psychiatric symptoms that prevent an individual from being able to care for him or herself, a sudden and severe worsening of psychotic symptoms that impair normal functioning, any kind of delusion or hallucination that might cause extreme agitation or violence in an individual.
The purpose of the Baker Act is to keep mentally ill individuals safe during a crisis so that they are not a danger to hurting themselves or others. Typically a person stays in the hospital for about 3 days while the proper evaluations are being conducted. They may be mandated to stay longer in order to provide more care after the initial evaluation period. Whatever the outcome, one must always use caution when seeking to initiate the Baker Act because once a person is admitted to a hospital under the Baker Act, he or she cannot leave until the evaluation period is over and they could be required to stay longer. There is a temporary loss of some of your civil rights when you are admitted under the Baker Act and therefore it is important that multiple evaluations are conducted before the person is admitted to make sure that they meet criteria.
The Baker Act was put into law in 1972 in the city of Miami by a woman named Maxine Baker who sponsored the bill.
The Baker Act is a Florida law that enables families and loved ones to provide emergency mental health services and temporary detention for people who are impaired because of their mental illness, and who are unable to determine their needs for treatment. The Act was named after Maxine Baker, former Miami State representative who sponsored the Act in 1972. People who require the use of the Baker Act have often lost the power of self-control, and they are likely to inflict harm to themselves or others. It is important that the Baker Act only be used in situations where the person has a mental illness and meets all the remaining criteria for voluntary or involuntary admission.
Can I Baker Act Myself?
The short answer is yes. A person can have voluntary or involuntary status under the Baker Act. A person who voluntarily admits himself must not only be willing to provide consent but also be competent to provide consent and receive treatment. If a person is deemed incompetent to consent to treatment (such as dementia or under the influence of substances), you cannot be held under the voluntary provisions of the law.
Why might someone seek to “Baker Act” himself? There can be a variety of reasons. Sometimes a person is in treatment with an outpatient provider who has been closely monitoring his or her symptoms. The outpatient clinician and the client may have determined clear guidelines under which the individual is to report to an ER. Typically the client would agree to this arrangement during a time of more clarity and people in his support network might also be aware of this arrangement. The purpose of sending the client to the ER might be to keep him or her safe while medications are adjusted or changed or to prevent injury to self or others. Sometimes individuals notice that the intensity of suicidal thoughts are increasing in intensity and frequency to the point where he or she feels concerned about his or her own well-being. For individuals who experience psychosis as a part of their illness, a worsening or re-appearance of psychotic symptoms may be the indicator it is time to be admitted to the hospital.
Baker Act Individual Rights for Persons with Mental Illnesses
The Baker Act guarantees rights to persons with mental illnesses. Some of these rights include:
- Individual Dignity: Ensures all constitutional rights and to be treated in a humane way during the Baker Act process and treatment
- Treatment: Treatment cannot be denied or delayed due to a person’s inability to pay.
- Express and Informed Consent: This right allows a person to choose if and when to apply for mental health services when they are competent to do so. It also allows a person to stop treatment at any time.
- Quality of Treatment: This right demands that treatment be administered skillfully, safely, and humanely.
- Communication: This right allows a person to communicate freely and privately with persons outside the treatment facility by phone, mail, visitation, or other communication method.
- Care and Custody of Personal Effects: This right ensures that a person can keep their personal belongings such as their clothes, unless they are required for removal for safety or medical purposes
- Voting in Public Elections: This right ensures that a person can vote in elections in which they are qualified.
- Habeas Corpus: This right allows a person to contact a court to review the legality of detention
- Treatment and Discharge Planning: This right provides the opportunity to participate in treatment and the discharge Baker Act Handbook User Reference Guide 2014.
- Sexual Misconduct Prohibited: This right protects staff from engaging in sexual activity with a person being served in a treatment facility. A staff member found guilty will receive a felony charge.
- Right to a Representative: A person being treated has the right to a representative to act on their behalf and get immediate access to them.
- Confidentiality: This right allows a person to have confidentiality and can only be released with their consent or a legally authorized representative.
- Violation of Rights: Anyone who violates the rights and privileges of persons in the Baker Act is liable for damages determined by law.
Baker Act Steps to Take
When determining if you or a loved one falls under the Baker Act law, follow these steps:
- Individuals present themselves to a receiving facility for a medical exam, treatment, and a physical exam (usually an Emergency Room)
- Exam by receiving facility determines if a person is able to make well-reasoned, willful, knowing mental health decisions.
- If deemed competent, an initial psychiatric evaluation is performed in the ER, prior to any admission to determine if the person is in need of emergency care and stabilization. If the patient is deemed to be a danger to self or others, he will be admitted to the psychiatric unit for further diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring.
- If deemed not an immediate and clear danger to self or others, the patient is discharged.
- If deemed a danger to self or others but not considered competent, he can be involuntarily admitted via an appointed guardian
- An involuntary admission is started by a court order, law enforcement, or professional certificate. Often a family member or a treating clinician initiates this process due to concerns about safety, typically by calling the police.
- The individual is brought either by ambulance or by police to a receiving facility. A medical exam is given to determine if a person is able to make well-reasoned, willful, knowing mental health decisions
- If no, a petition for treatment by an appointed guardian is made
- If a person is considered a danger to self or others, he will be admitted to a psychiatric unit and held for 72 hours where a mandatory exam is given by a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist to determine which level of care is required.
- If this first professional determines a need for inpatient treatment, a 2nd opinion is sought by a psychiatrist.
- If all criteria are met, a patient can be involuntarily placed into treatment for up to 6 months before a discharge evaluation. Clients can also be discharged after the initial 72 hours and recommended to outpatient care. If the individual already has a psychologist or psychiatrist, the team at the hospital will make contact with these providers and set up appointments for immediately after discharge. They may also recommend other types of treatment depending on the situation.
What to Do After the Baker Act?
If you or a loved one was provided treatment through the Baker Act, further treatment should be sought to prevent future setbacks. One of the most common mistakes people make after the Baker Act is to either do nothing or just keep with the same treatment as before. In some cases, sticking with your treatment is just fine but for many, it is an indicator that you might need something more intensive, especially if you have been admitted to a hospital via the Baker Act more than once. The Baker Act is to be used for emergencies only and not as a way of keeping someone on track or to stabilize him or her.
After a Baker Act, you might want to have your most important members of your support network come in to a meeting with your outpatient mental health team to learn more about how they can support you and also provide important information to your team. Having a team of professionals who you feel safe and confident in is important for your long-term well-being. The same is true of your support network. Those individuals who help support you need to be fully educated and informed about your mental illness so that they can be most effective.
A clinical psychologist can help you get to the root causes of your problems and can help you learn new skills to manage your mental illness more effectively and to move forward to a brighter future.
See a Top Mental Health Psychologist After Baker Act in Florida
If you find yourself unsure what to do after Baker Act, I can help.
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Have any questions about the recovery process? I’d be happy to answer them. Simply reach out to me and I’ll be sure to answer anything you want to know.
I look forward to helping you obtain a brighter tomorrow.