Understanding the Florida Baker Act
The Florida Mental Health Act of 1971, also referred to as the Florida Baker Act and the, is a Florida statute found under Chapter 394 that allows for the involuntary examination though of an individual through involuntary or emergency commitment. The Florida Baker act was named after a Maxine Baker, a state representative, who had a very strong interest and much involvement in mental health issues, and served as House Committee on mental health’s chair. She was also the sponsor of the Florida Baker Act.
The nickname of the legislation, Baker act, has led to the phrase "Baker Act" being used as a transitive verb, and the phrase "Baker Acted" being used as a passive-voice verb, in order to invoke the Florida Baker Act to force the commitment on an individual. Although the Baker Act Florida is only a statute for Florida, the use of the term "Baker Acting" has become very prevalent as a slang term in other parts of the United States for involuntary commitment.
Initiating the Florida Baker Act
The Florida Baker Act can be initiated by law enforcement officials, court judges, mental health professionals, or physicians. In order for any of these officials to enact the Baker Act Florida, there must be substantial evidence that an individual has a mental illness as explained in the Baker act, or there is intent to harm oneself, others, or be self-neglectful as described in the Baker act. These examinations can occur in over 115 different designated receiving facilities under the Florida Baker act.
There are many different possible outcomes after an examination of the patient under the Baker Act Florida. Some of the possible conclusions include releasing the individual into the community or some form of community placement, petitioning for civil commitment or involuntary inpatient placement (which must result in a hearing within 5 days), requesting assisted treatment orders or involuntary outpatient placement or outpatient commitment, or having the competent individual consent to voluntary treatment. The option of involuntary outpatient placement was added in the Florida Baker Act 2005.
Admission under the Florida Baker Act
A voluntary admission under the Florida Baker Act happens when a person who is 18 years or older, or a guardian or parent of a minor, applies for the individual’s admission to a facility for observation, treatment, or diagnosis.
An involuntary admission under the Florida Baker Act happens after a court finds that either an individual is mentally ill resulting in him or her refusing voluntary placement for medical treatment or if the individual cannot determine by him or herself whether placement is necessary. An involuntary admission can also occur under the Baker Act Florida if the individual is not capable of living either alone or with help, and going without treatment will most likely result suffering due to the refusal to care or neglect or self-infliction of bodily harm as shown by evidence of his or her recent behavior. Lastly, if there are no other appropriate treatment alternatives that are less restrictive, the Baker law allows for involuntary treatment.
Concerns over the Florida Baker Act
Scrutiny in the Florida Baker Act regarding the civil commitment process amplified during the mid-1990s because of the statute being abused, particularly regarding the elderly. The state of Florida is the fourth largest in the country, with over than 14 million residents and over 3.4 million of those are 60 or over, meaning there is sizeable and significant population in the state is directly affected by the Florida Baker Act.
The Baker Act Florida was significantly refused by the Florida legislature in 1996 to reform certain provisions in order to include stronger protections for individuals regarding involuntary and voluntary status, reinforced informed consent as well as guardian advocacy provisions, widened the scope of notice requirements, created rules for the withdrawal and suspension of treatment and receiving facility designations.
Even after reforms, there are noted inadequacies in processes and forms in the Baker Act Florida along with as delays or errors in the judicial administration of the Florida Baker Act. Because of these, it results in many of the cases denying timely due process to Florida citizens.
Relevant Patient Rights in the Florida Baker Act
The right for individual dignity ensures that citizens maintain all constitutional rights and requires that an individual must be treated in a humane way when being treated transported for mental illness even when the Baker Act Florida is in place.
The right to treatment under the Baker Act Florida prohibits any denial or delay of treatment due to an individual’s inability to pay and also requires that the person receive prompt physical examination once arriving. The right also requires the patient to be involved in treatment planning and requires that the most appropriate and least restrictive available the specific needs of each individual patient.
Express and Informed Consent
The right to express and informed consent encourages individuals to apply voluntarily for mental health services if competent and capable of. If an individual is competent, he or she can choose his or her own treatment, and decide if and when he or she wishes to stop the treatment. The law also requires that voluntary consent be given in writing after adequate explanation to allow the individual to make a willful and knowing decision without having been coerced.
Quality of Treatment
Quality of treatment social, educational, rehabilitative, medical, and vocational services must be suited specifically to each patient’s needs and must be administered safely, humanely, and skillfully. The use of seclusion, restraint, isolation, elevated levels of supervision, emergency treatment orders, and physical management techniques are closely regulated. In all of these, complaint resolution is needed.
Communication, Abuse Reporting, and Visits
This right guarantees individuals who are in mental health facilities the right to freely and privately communicate with other individuals outside of the facilities by visitation, mail, or phone. If this communication is restricted for some reason, a written notice must be provided for it. No restriction of telephone calls specifically to the patient’s attorney or to the Abuse Registry is allowed under any situation.
Care and Custody of Personal Effects
This right of an individual ensures that a patient may keep his or her own personal effects and clothing, unless the items have been removed for medical or safety reasons. If the effects or clothing are removed, a witnessed inventory must be provided.
Treatment and Discharge Planning
This right guarantees the chance to participate in discharge planning and treatment and to look for treatment from the agency or professional of the patient’s choice after being discharge.