The Florida Mental Health Act, also known as the Baker Act, controls the process for voluntary and involuntary mental health examination and institutionalization. Through Baker Act's parental rights, parents may seek involuntarily institutionalization when their children are mentally ill.
The Florida Baker Act’s formal name is the Florida Mental Health Act of 1971. This law does a number of things. It is well known for enabling one party to seek the involuntary institutionalization of another. This includes parents using the Baker Act for children who may be suffering from a mental illness. The law also formalizes patient’s rights in regard to involuntary institutionalization and limitations on when this process is appropriate. There are many circumstances in which someone suffering from a mental illness would benefit from receiving medical attention, yet it is not a process to be abused, which is why there is judicial oversight.
The Baker Act and Parental Rights
As a parent of a minor, you have many rights in regard to making decisions for your child and controlling various aspect of your child’s life. You decide where he lives, goes to school, whether he is raised in a particular religion and where the child receives medical care. However, your right to control your children is not absolute, particularly as they become more independent adolescents. The Baker Act offers you the opportunity to get your child help when needed, but it does not enable you to automatically institutionalize your child.
Under the Baker Act, a minor can voluntarily admit herself into a mental health facility. However, as the parent, you must apply for the minor’s admission into the facility, and there must be a judicial hearing to ensure that the minor is competent and acting voluntarily. If a minor is voluntarily admitted, she can also revoke that consent to treatment and must be discharged within 24 hours, unless transferred to involuntary status.
"Baker Acting" a minor in Florida is a serious process through which you force a child or adolescent to participate in outpatient or inpatient mental health treatment instead of the minor voluntarily going to a mental health facility. An adult or minor may be involuntarily admitted if a court finds, by clear and convincing evidence, that they have a mental illness, and because of this illness:
- They have refused voluntary inpatient treatment or are unable to determine if they need inpatient treatment;
- They are incapable of surviving alone or with the help of willing family members or friends; and
- Without treatment, they are likely to suffer neglect or refuse to care for themselves, which poses a real and present threat of harm to their well-being.
A minor or adult can also be admitted without consent if the court finds they have a mental illness and there is a substantial likelihood that in the near future, they will attempt to seriously hurt themselves or others.
The Baker Act Reporting Center
The College of Behavioral and Community Sciences at the University of South Florida runs the Baker Act Reporting Center. For two decades, the reporting center has organized and analyzed involuntary examination data, including involuntary examination of minors.
If you are a worried parent or family member, the Baker Act Reporting Center can be helpful. Through an interactive map, it notes locations of Baker Act Receiving Locations by county throughout Florida. Under the law, a designated receiving facility is a location approved by the department that provides, at minimum, emergency screening, evaluation and short-term stabilization for mental health or substance abuse disorders. It may have an agreement with a corresponding facility for transportation and mental health services. Some counties do not have any receiving facilities, while others have many – Miami-Dade County has dozens of receiving facilities.
Florida Baker Act Forms 2017
If you believe it is necessary to seek a loved one’s involuntary admission to a mental health facility, you can find Baker Act forms at the Florida Department of Children and Families’ website. They have forms in both English and Spanish.
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