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The Florida Involuntary Commitment Law

The Baker Act

Many people have questions as to their human rights when it comes to involuntary commitment, especially the involuntary commitment of children into psychiatric wards and facilities.

While The Citizens Commission on Human Rights of Florida, does not give legal or medical advice, the following information will help to answer some of the frequently asked questions and will be referenced for the reader’s convenience.

General and important information regarding involuntary commitment and psychiatry
Per “The Florida Senate Interim Project Report 2006-103, “Part I of Chapter 394, F.S., The Florida Mental Health Act also known as ‘the Baker Act’ governs the examination, admission, and treatment of persons for mental illnesses. Although for purposes of involuntary
examination, the Baker Act does not differentiate between children and adults, several sections of
Chapter 394, F.S., refer specifically to minors.”

This Interim report admits that “unclear and sometimes conflicting interpretations of the Baker Act as it relates to children have evolved over time.”  At the time this report was written, a recommendation was made for the Florida Legislature to conduct a study of the legal rights of children under the Baker Act, as was recommended by the Supreme Court Commission on Fairness in 1999”.

Initially the Baker Act was enacted into Legislature in 1971 “in order provide emergency admission for evaluation of persons who because of a mental illness were likely to physically injure self or others.”

The original intent of the Baker Act has been altered to suit the vested interests of the psychiatric community.  The ever-growing use of psychiatric diagnoses and mental health evaluations, has led to a national movement to label the youth with “serious emotional and behavioral” problems and in the name of “help” to go looking for a way to diagnose and label them.  With that said, the increased use of the Baker Act has paralleled the increase in use of “early intervention”. 

To date, there are no medical tests, not one x-ray, MRI, blood test, that can evidence a psychiatric disorder.  (See http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8058160857846500132 )
There are financially vested interests that perpetuate an abundance of written and visual materials, to try and promote the use of the early intervention, mental health screening questions and techniques.  Not once, have these vested interests answered up to the fact that there are no medical tests to evidence a psychiatric diagnosis and no evidence of the workability of these intrusive techniques.

Yet, there are medical doctors who have and do evidence, with medical testing, that there are potential underlying physical and medical causes for any mental health symptom (not diagnosis or treatment and drugging) and that there are safe alternative treatments to handle the actual cause of depression, anxiety, stress, etcetera.

Right to Express and Informed Consent for children
The Senate report states that there were changes made in 1979 to the Baker Act that established “two fundamental rights of persons being treated for mental illnesses, the right to treatment in the least restrictive environment and the requirement that express and informed consent be given by a person before beginning any treatment.”

“The other significant change was replacing the term “hospitalization” with “placement,” reflecting the increasing development of community-based treatment settings.”

Florida refers to the “receiving facilities”, the In-take units, psychiatric wards or hospitals, as the “Front-door” to continued psychiatric services.

The Criteria to place a child under involuntary commitment
The criteria, per Florida Statute 394.463, that deems a child as a candidate for the Baker Act, are the following:

 “A person may be taken to a receiving facility for involuntary examination if there is reason to believe that the person has a mental illness and because of his or her mental illness:
(a)1. The person has refused voluntary examination after conscientious explanation and disclosure of the purpose of the examination;

or 2. The person is unable to determine for himself or herself whether examination is necessary; and

(b)1. Without care or treatment, the person is likely to suffer from neglect or refuse to care for himself or herself; such neglect or refusal poses a real and present threat of substantial harm to his or her well-being; and it is not apparent that such harm may be avoided through the help of willing family members or friends or the provision of other services; or

2. There is a substantial likelihood that without care or treatment the person will cause serious bodily harm to himself or herself or others in the near future, as evidenced by recent behavior.”

A Baker Act can be initiated by court order, a law-enforcement officer, a psychologist, mental health therapist, psychiatric nurse, physician, social worker or psychiatrist.

The procedure for involuntary commitment
Per the Florida Statute, The Baker Act (s. 394.463 (2), F.S. ) “A person brought to a receiving facility must be examined by a physician or clinical psychologist immediately and may be treated on an emergency basis if treatment is necessary for the safety of the person or others. If the individual is found to meet the criteria for
involuntary examination, he or she may be held in a receiving facility for examination for no more than 72 hours. Based on the results of the examination, within the 72 hours one of following must occur:

Understanding your rights and the rights of your child is vital.  Per the Florida Mental Health Act report, prepared for the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, in 2007, in the state of Florida, there was an average of 52 children given involuntary exams, per day.

19, 125 involuntary examinations were given to children ages, 4-17 years old and more than 3 out of every 1000 children in the state were admitted for these examinations in one year.

You can contact the Citizens Commission on Human Rights of Florida, at 800-782-2878 to get more information about your rights!