What Is the Baker Act?

what is the baker act
Springbrook Hospital is a Baker Act-receiving facility in Hernando County, Florida. But what is the Baker Act? If you’re unsure, we’ll address any questions you might have about this Florida law.

What Is the Baker Act?

The Florida Mental Health Act, also known as The Baker Act, passed in 1971. This law contains provisions for many issues pertaining to mental health in the state of Florida, ranging from screening procedures to the appointment of legal guardians. However, it is primarily known for its criteria for involuntary commitment to mental health facilities. 

The Baker Act allows specific people to place patients under involuntary evaluation at Baker Act-receiving hospitals. The only people who can do so include: 

  • judges
  • mental health professionals
  • law enforcement officers
  • doctors

Additionally, patients must meet certain criteria. These criteria include:

  1. The individual has a mental illness
  2. AND because of their mental illness, they have refused a voluntary exam for admission to a facility, or are unable to determine that they need an exam. 
  3. AND without help, they pose a serious harm to themselves or others. OR without treatment, they will suffer neglect to the point that they will harm their own well-being. 

Substantial evidence must be presented in order to Baker Act a patient. For example, guidelines for involuntary examination are not met if the patient has had a mental illness in the past but has since recovered. It’s also not enough that the person is mentally ill; they must meet all the other criteria. 

Baker Act Procedures 

Normally, a patient enters a Baker Act-receiving facility in one of three different ways. First, a law enforcement officer may deem it necessary to take someone into custody and take them for mental health treatment. Oftentimes, this occurs when the patient makes a scene in public and a police officer arrives at the location. 

Second, a mental health professional may send someone they’ve examined them in the past 48 hours if they think the patient meets the criteria for involuntary placement. Third, a court may issue an ex-parte order based on sworn testimony. This happens when a family member or someone close to the patient petitions the court for help.

Additionally, an individual may actually voluntarily Baker Act themselves. This can only happen if they are over 18 years old. If they’re under 18, a parent or guardian can request it. 

The First 72 hours 

Once someone has been sent to a facility for examination, they are allowed to be held for 72 hours if they are 18 or over. However, minors can only be held for 12 hrs. Once 12 hours have passed, a doctor must conduct a medical review. 

A medical review is extremely important to this process. Over 100 different diseases have symptoms that mirror those of a mental health disorder. In order to receive a proper diagnosis, physical illnesses must be factored out. Possible illnesses include 

  • influenza
  • infectious mononucleosis
  • viral pneumonia
  • cancer
  • sleep apnea
  • thyroid diseases

The facility must also notify family members of the admission. They must have written proof that attempts were made to contact the individual’s: 

  • guardian or guardian advocate
  • health care surrogate or proxy
  • attorney or representative

What Happens After 72 Hours? 

After 72 hours, a person may be discharged or asked to seek voluntary admission (either inpatient or outpatient). Otherwise, if it has been deemed necessary, a petition can be filed in the court for involuntary placement to the facility. 

The individual must appear in court within five days. If the judge deems that involuntary commitment is warranted, they can place the individual in a facility for up to six months. 


For a flow chart of the Baker Act, click here

Get the Treatment You Need

Whether you need help with your mental health or substance use disorder, the care staff at Springbrook Hospital are ready to help. Wherever you are in your recovery, we are ready to help you.

You are always welcome at Springbrook hospital. Whatever treatment modality or recovery program you need, we are ready to give you the highest quality of care possible.

Reach out to us online or call us at (352) 596-4306

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