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The Baker Act

baker act - woman assists young woman

If you or a loved one lives with mental illness, it’s good to know about the Baker Act. Emergency psychiatric admissions in Florida fall under the Baker Act. These admissions can be confusing and stressful when the process is new and unfamiliar.

What is the Baker Act?

The Baker Act is Florida’s mental health law (Florida Statute 394.451-394.47891). The terms “Baker Acted” or “placed under the Baker Act” refers to the initial involuntary evaluation provision under the law. It allows individuals to be retained for up to 72 hours or until they are evaluated by a qualified professional. Evaluations can be done by a medical doctor, psychologist or in some instances, an advanced registered nurse practitioner (ARNP). The Baker Act process can be initiated in three ways:

  1. By law enforcement officers.
  2. By a mental health professional, ARNP or physician.
  3. By the court through an ex parte order based on sworn testimony by family, friends or acquaintances.

Loved ones and treatment

Family members or friends may want to ask about a loved one’s treatment. However, medical professionals and staff are bound by law to neither confirm nor deny that a patient is in care.  The adult patient is the only person who can grant permission to talk about their treatment or situation. Custodial parents have access to their children during the Baker Act process. Likewise, they have authority to share health care information or not with others.

What happens after evaluation?

Before 72 hours has passed, the treating psychiatrist will determine one of two things: 1) the patient is not a threat to their self or anyone else and can leave the facility, 2) or that the patient still needs inpatient care. In case of the latter, the psychiatrist can petition the court to hold the patient longer. The average stay beyond 72 hours is four and a half days. A psychiatrist or clinical psychologist must approve the patient’s release.

Mental health professionals want to ensure that patients feel physically and psychologically safe. They are bound to obey Florida statute and honor patients’ rights. However, they know that by practicing trauma-informed care they also show compassion and respect in the process.