Substance Use

Baker Act: What Is It and Which States?

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Baker Act: What Is It and Which States Qualify?

The Baker Act is a Florida-based law created to establish legal procedures surrounding the involuntary examination and treatment of individuals living with mental illness. This law helps prevent indiscriminate admission, ensuring individuals are only admitted to a mental health facility with just cause. The Baker Act encourages individuals to seek voluntary treatment. However, if any individual may harm themselves or others, this Florida statute allows involuntary intervention.

While the Baker Act applies specifically to Florida, other states have similar involuntary commitment laws surrounding mental health concerns. 

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What Is the Florida Baker Act?

The Baker Act, or the Florida Mental Health Act of 1971, is a law in the state of Florida that allows mental health professionals, doctors, law enforcement, and judges to commit an individual to a mental health treatment facility.

However, these legal mental health examinations and treatment procedures can be voluntary or involuntary. These scenarios apply to individuals 18 years or older who are deemed a threat to themselves or others, focusing on crisis and emergency services. 

The criteria are as follows:

  • An individual demonstrates through actions or words they are suicidal, plan to harm themselves or others, or are incapable of caring for themselves to the point of severe self-neglect. 
  • Following one of these scenarios, by law, officers have the right to take the individual into protective custody — with or without consent. 
  • Individuals are detained for a maximum of 72 hours and are evaluated by a mental health professional during this time. 

While involuntary holds may be necessary, the Baker Act primarily encourages people to seek mental health treatment voluntarily and protects their rights to prevent being held unnecessarily. 

What States Have Baker Acts?

The Baker Act is a statute that applies only to Florida. However, Baker Acting has become a common term for explaining involuntary commitment throughout the United States. There are equivalent laws in all states, with involuntary commitment existing to some extent. These laws exist to protect the public, including those who pose risks to themselves and others. 

Often, a family member or advocate must step forward to begin the legal process. However, the procedures differ from state to state. Typically, these laws and associated procedures aim to balance public safety and personal rights. 

Examples of Similar U.S. Mental Health Laws and Regulations 

  • Alabama: Alabama Mental Health Code regulates involuntary commitment laws in Alabama. This process typically begins with a petition alleging someone is suffering from mental instability and that they pose a risk.
  • Arizona: Arizona involuntary commitment law is outlined in the Arizona Revised Statutes, Title 36, Chapter 5. A judge may order an individual to outpatient treatment if full-time supervision is unnecessary. 
  • California: The Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) Act is California’s standards and expectations surrounding involuntary commitment. It was developed to end people with mental illnesses’ indefinite, inappropriate, and involuntary commitment. Once enacted in 1967, many people were released from state hospitals.
  • Nebraska: Nebraska, Legislative Bill 668 was introduced in early 2023. The goal is to improve access to mental health treatment by allowing medical professionals to place an emergency hold on patients to see if further treatment would be beneficial. 
  • New York: In New York, emergency medical professionals and law enforcement officers can involuntarily commit an individual who appears to be struggling with a mental illness. If an evaluation is given during the holding period, this involuntary assessment can be helpful when petitioning a court for treatment orders. 
  • Washington state: The Involuntary Treatment Act in Washington states that a petitioner must prove an individual cannot care for their basic needs on their own or has lost control of their actions — which often overlaps with substance abuse impairment. The likelihood of the individual harming themselves or their property is also often grounds for involuntary commitment.

Do you or your loved one need mental health support? Call Zinnia Health at (855) 430-9439 to discuss the available treatment mental health programs. We offer many mental health therapy options, ensuring a personalized approach.

Why Is It Called the Baker Act?

In 1971, the Florida Legislature passed the Florida Mental Health Act. It went into effect on July 1, 1972, and included some significant revisions — the Baker Act being one of them. This Act aimed to prohibit indiscriminate admission of people to state institutions, including those as young as 12 years old.

The Act was named after Maxine Baker, the former State Representative from Miami. She was the chairperson of the House Committee on Mental Health and was the one who sponsored the Baker Act. 

Baker wanted to increase community care for those with mental illnesses and encourage voluntary commitment. She famously said, “In the name of mental health, we deprive them of their most precious possession – liberty.”

Since the Baker Act became effective, several changes were made to protect the civil rights of citizens, with the most substantial reform occurring in 1996, which included:

  • Greater protections for those seeking voluntary admission 
  • The strengthening of informed consent and guardian advocacy provisions
  • Expanding notice requirements

How Does the Baker Act Differ From the Marchman Act?

The Baker Act and the Marchman Act both focus on processes for those incapable of determining their need for treatment and individuals who may harm themselves or others. The primary difference is why someone is committed.

The Baker Act applies to mental illness, whereas the Marchman Act relates to substance abuse. However, based on the link between mental illness and substance use disorder, cases often overlap, applying to the Baker or Marchman Act. 

The Baker Act and Children

In recent years, there have been concerns surrounding children and involuntary commitments. For over 15 years, the number of children for involuntary psychiatric evaluations under the Baker Act has increased — at a pace faster than any other age group. The issue is that one of the factors to initiate an involuntary exam can not be met with children — which involves someone refusing a voluntary exam or being unable to determine if one is necessary. 

Many advocates are pushing back since the Baker Act was not designed for children, and minors cannot legally consent. They want to ensure children are treated differently than adults within the commitment process to avoid traumatic experiences. 

Zinnia Health Offers Comprehensive Mental Health Treatment

Zinnia Health offers various treatment options, focusing on substance abuse, mental health, and trauma-based treatment. As leaders in health and healing, Zinnia will help you become the best version of yourself. 

Learn more about the inpatient and outpatient programs available to find a treatment option that works for you, and discover Zinnia Health’s nationwide locations. When you’re ready to discuss the next steps, Zinnia’s team is standing by 24/7. Call us at (855) 430-9439 — we’re here to help. 

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