It is important for parents to know and understand the mental health law in Florida as this law allows for the involuntary commitment of minors without parental consent or knowledge.
Involuntary means that a person is committed against their will, without their own choice. The Florida Department of Children and Families publish a “Baker Act Handbook and User Reference Guide”. This book references the “Mental health Act”, better known as the “Baker Act” and provides detailed information about children and involuntary commitment and can be accessed by clicking here: Baker Act Guide
Additionally, the presentation on this page, “Baker Act: Consent for Admission and Treatment of Minors” can be viewed as a PDF by clicking on the picture of the presentation on the right of this page.
First and foremost is the issue of consent. In most mental health areas of practice you will find that a person is due his basic human right to express and informed consent to treatment. This is an entire subject for study, unto itself and you will find a lot of factual information on this issue on the website for the Citizens Commission on Human Rights of Florida.
A person who has been deemed incompetent to consent to treatment, will lose their human right to consent and this will fall in the hands of a law enforcement officer, a psychiatrist, a psychiatric nurse or a psychologist.
Any one of these professionals can initiate a Baker Act if the child or individual is demonstrating an inability “to exercise voluntary control over his or her own symptoms (mental health symptoms).”
And because of their inability to control their mental health symptoms and because they are deemed an “imminent danger” to themselves or to others, with the “nature and extent of the danger posed” documented in their records, the individual or child will be involuntary committed.
If the child is deemed to be incapacitated or incompetent to consent to treatment, he or she cannot prevent the involuntary commitment. If the person is involuntary committed, then there are very specific things that they can or cannot do. The following information from the handbook ( mentioned above) helps to clarify specific issues regarding the child, parent or guardian’s right to refuse treatment:
“If the proposed treatment has been fully disclosed to the legally authorized substitute decision-maker who has provided informed consent to the treatment, the person does not have the authority to refuse.
The person does have the right to file a petition for a writ of habeas corpus so a judge can determine if the person’s rights have been violated.
However, if a person strongly objects to a particular form of treatment, the guardian/guardian advocate or surrogate/proxy should talk with the person to determine the reasons for the objections.
If appropriate, the guardian/guardian advocate or surrogate/proxy may, based on this information, withdraw his or her consent for the proposed treatment and negotiate a revised treatment plan with the physician.
A person’s refusal to consent to treatment is not, in itself, an indication of incompetence to consent.
There may be many reasons why a person may decide not to consent to a particular medication or to any medication ordered by a particular physician, or to treatment ordered at a particular facility. The decision as to whether a person is competent to consent is a clinical judgment of his or her capacity to decide, not one based on whether the person does or doesn’t provide such consent.”
Psychiatric treatment and the Baker Act:
According to the Baker Act, the psychiatric treatment needs to be given in the “least restrictive manner”. It is vital to understand that the issue of guardianship and parental rights can be exercised.
Get informed and know your rights and the rights of your child!
Call the Citizens Commission on Human Rights of Florida 800-782-2878