The Florida Mental Health Act is often referred to as the Baker Act after the bill's sponsor, state lawmaker Maxine Baker from Miami. Enacted in 1972, the Baker Act created a system of rights for individuals suffering from mental illness. The act protects the rights of due process for those held in mental health institutions, according to the University of South Florida. The act regulates the temporary detention of minors and it allows voluntary admissions and involuntary placement only after an expert evaluates a minor and deems it necessary.
Provisions for Minors at Receiving Facility
Florida statutory law defines a minor as a "person under 18 whose disabilities haven't been removed by marriage or emancipation." The Baker Act requires facilities that receive minors as involuntary patients under emergency conditions for evaluation and psychiatric care to file a form with the state. The facility must give details on the form about the psychiatric services and other distinct programs that it will provide to patients by age group. One group is defined as patients under 10 years old and the other group consists of minors between the ages of 10 to 17. The Baker Act requires separation of minors under the age of 14 from adults in either patient rooms or common rooms in mental health facilities.
Voluntary Admission for Minors
The Baker Act allows minors who show signs of mental illness to voluntarily consent to be admitted to a mental health facility. However, the parent or guardian must also apply for the minor's admission and the law also requires a judicial hearing to be held to ensure that it really is voluntary on the minor's part, according to Florida Statutes Title XXIX Chapter 394.4625(1)(a). Those requirements are necessary because a minor does not have the legal capacity to give independent consent to mental health treatment or admission to a mental health facility.
Involuntary Admission for Minors
Although the Baker Act makes no distinction between the involuntary evaluation of adults or minors, the law does directly address the involuntary placement of a minor in a mental health care facility for treatment. The legislature made two changes to the Baker Act regarding the involuntary placement of minors. In 1982, the legislature eliminated the provision for waiving a judicial hearing on the involuntary placement of a minor in a mental health facility. In 1991, the state legislature amended the law again. Under the new rules for an involuntary admission, the law still requires asking the minor for consent, but only the consent of a parent or guardian is required for the involuntary admission of the minor to a mental health facility for treatment.
Mental health officials do not know ahead of time which minors will give consent. Therefore, they cannot categorize admission of a minor as voluntary or involuntary until after they ask the minor for consent. If the minor does not give consent, but a parent or guardian does give consent, then the minor is admitted for treatment against his or her will, that is, involuntarily.