The Baker Act allows someone to provide emergency health services for a family member or friend who is experiencing a mental health crisis. Baker Acting someone is not an easy thing to do. If someone you love is out of control and you fear for their safety or the safety of others, you can have them involuntarily Baker Acted and observed for 72 hours. This term is only used in Florida; other states usually refer to it as an involuntary psychiatric hold. Before proceeding, review the requirements for the Baker Act. You can speak to a psychologist or other mental health care professional, or review chapter 394 of the Florida statutes. The Baker Act, named for its sponsor, is formally known as the Florida Mental Health Act.
The Last Resort
Keep an eye on your friend or family member. Try to get her help in the form of mental health counseling or medication. Even if she seems to be improving, watch her very carefully. Using the Baker Act is a last resort.
Helping Someone with Mental Health Issues
Talk to your friend about voluntarily Baker Acting himself. Anyone 18 years of age or older can Baker Act himself. If the person is under 18, parents must provide the authorization. You can also contact your friend's mental health professional. Any mental health professional can authorize the psych hold if he feels it's necessary.
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When to Call Police
Call the police if the person is placing himself or someone else in immediate danger. This includes threats of suicide or initiating a suicide attempt. Law enforcement officers can take him into custody and request that he be put on a 72-hour psych hold.
An Ex Parte Order
File an ex parte order at the clerk of court's office for your county. To do this, you must have witnessed the criteria for initiating the Baker Act, which is a person out of control who may cause harm to herself or others, and swear to it. You must have discussed voluntary Baker Acting with the person previously. Fill out the necessary paperwork at the clerk's office, and after it's processed, a law enforcement officer will take the person into custody. A mental health professional will then evaluate your friend or relative.
A person who has voluntarily Baker Acted himself may leave the hospital at any time. The 72-hour rule does not apply to this. Prepare yourself for your friend to be extremely angry with you. Understand that what you did was in her best interests and eventually she'll get over it. If not, just be glad you possibly saved her life.