It is important for parents to know and understand the mental health law in Florida as this law allows a child to be removed from school and sent for involuntary psychiatric examination without parental knowledge.
In order for any person, no matter their age, to be sent for an involuntary psychiatric examination there are very specific criteria that must be met.
These criteria are:
394.463 Involuntary examination.—
(1) CRITERIA.—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.
Additionally, mental illness in Florida is defined as “an impairment of the mental or emotional processes that exercise conscious control of one’s actions or of the ability to perceive or understand reality, which impairment substantially interferes with the person’s ability to meet the ordinary demands of living. For the purposes of this part, the term does not include a developmental disability as defined in chapter 393, intoxication, or conditions manifested only by antisocial behavior or substance abuse.”
It is the opinion of CCHR that before an involuntary psychiatric examination is initiated on a minor that the individual involved should first ensure that a child is not exhibiting “anti-social behavior”. Children have tantrums and teenagers have dramatic moments – all of which can be misinterpreted as signs of mental illness when in fact they are they are normal childhood behaviors.
If the personnel authorized to initiate a Baker Act truly believe that the behavior of a child is a result of mental illness then, according to the criteria the parent or legal guardian should be contacted for the purpose of obtaining consent for a voluntary examination.
This is NOT being done. Instead involuntary examinations are being initiated on children without parental knowledge. The parent finds out AFTER their child has been Baker Acted.
Just in Florida there were 32,763 children sent for involuntary psychiatric examination during fiscal year 2016-2017.
This violation of human rights is happening to children as young as two years of age who are being Baker Acted without the parental knowledge. A BuzzFeed investigative news report titled “HOW A 6-YEAR-OLD GOT LOCKED ON A PSYCH WARD” illustrates the abusive use of the Baker Act and the undermining of parental rights in Florida.
To help protect children from inappropriate Baker Acting, CCHR Florida worked with attorneys to create a non-consent form which a parent or guardian can use to help protect their rights. This form can be downloaded in English and in Spanish on this website by clicking on these links:
CCHR is dedicated to the protection of children and are working to restore parental rights in Florida under the Baker Act. To find out how you can help or for more information on the Baker Act and how it applies to children, please call 1-800-782-2878.
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 examination and commitment. In order to view this guide click 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.
Get informed and know your rights and the rights of your child!
Call the Citizens Commission on Human Rights of Florida 1-800-782-2878
The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) of Florida is a non-profit mental health watchdog organization that investigates and exposes psychiatric abuse while educating the public on their rights under the law. We do not promote the use of the Baker Act. CCHR Florida provides only facts and does not provide medical or legal advice.
Our office recommends that an individual seek a thorough medical examination by a competent non-psychiatric medical professional and as needed the assistance of an attorney.