The Baker Act

The Florida Mental Health Act of 1971, what has become more commonly known as ‘The Baker Act’, is intended to allow the involuntary institutionalization of an individual who is suffering from a psychological condition and may not be mentally capable of admitting him or herself. Sometimes examining an individual is crucial and time sensitive, and this act allows a judge, law enforcement official, mental health professional, or physician to request an individual be involuntary examined in a timely manner. One might be a target of the Baker Act if they potentially suffer from serious mental illness or if they may pose harm to themselves, harm to others, or are self-neglectful. Once an individual is committed, the examination may last up to 72 hours even after he or she is deemed mentally stable.

What is the Baker Act?

Once an individual has been committed, there are several possible outcomes. If a person is competent, they may commit to treatment voluntarily. They may be deemed stable and released back into the community, or if proven a danger, there may be petitions to involuntary commit them to inpatient treatment. Involuntary outpatient treatment is also an option – an amendment that was made to the act in 2005. Florida is the only state with the Baker Act, and it is prevalently used throughout the states to commit drug addicts and alcoholics who are not mentally coherent and capable of taking care of themselves. Because the recovery scene is booming in Southern Florida particularly, this region has seen a great increase in Baker Act attempts over the course of the past several years. Although it is more common for addicts and alcoholics to be involuntarily committed as a result of the Marchman Act (which places an individual battling substance abuse in residential treatment), the Baker Act is also frequently employed based on its immediacy and the fact that many addicts and alcoholics are severely mentally unstable and dangerous while under the influence.

Why is the Baker Act Important?

The term has been transformed into a verb, used commonly in reference to individuals who may be mentally unstable and in need of urgent medical and psychological care. “Baker Acted” has quickly become a household term, despite the fact that many use it without a comprehensive knowledge of its meaning. The Baker Act is an important part of the mental health industry, and has undeniably saved innumerable lives since it was first implemented.

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