Baker Act & Marchman Act

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Did you know there is a way to commit your resistant loved one to addiction treatment using a court order?

Not only is addiction terrifying for the individual, it also affects loved ones. Alcoholism, drug addiction and families don’t mix. Addicts and alcoholics often cannot see the need for treatment or refuse to participate in their recovery. Fortunately, there are other options for getting a family member or a friend the help they desperately need.

While the first steps of getting loved ones into treatment are usually coaxing or interventions held by family and friends, sometimes the offers and ultimatums are ultimately rejected. In these cases, legal actions to force an individual into substance abuse or mental health treatment may be the only option. Involuntary commitments have saved countless people in the past, including some that come to our drug rehab in Florida. It may be the best course of action to save someone’s life.

The Baker Act

Used to get a loved one emergency psychological care

Formally known as the Florida Mental Health Act of 1971, this statute provides involuntary mental health examination to an individual who either;

  • Is believed to have a mental illness
  • Is of harm to themselves or others (includes self-neglect)

While a person is able to Baker Act themselves, most of the time a Baker Act is initiated by doctors, judges, or police officers. During a crisis situation, such as threats of suicide or self-harm, a third party can submit an affidavit to get an individual “baker-acted” through the circuit court.

“Mental illness means an impairment of the mental or
emotional processes that exercise conscious control of one’s
actions or of the ability to perceive or understand reality,
which impairment substantially interferes with a person’s
ability to meet the ordinary demands of living, regardless
of etiology. For the purposes of this part, the term does not
include a developmental disability as defined in Chapter
393, intoxication, or conditions manifested only by
antisocial behavior or substance abuse impairment.”

– The Florida Mental Health Act of 1971 – F.S. §394.455

The Process

1. The individual is committed by means of a law enforcement officer, a physician, or a sworn affidavit from another individual.
2. A law enforcement officer takes the person into custody and transports them to a receiving mental health facility.
3. The individual is examined and placed on a psychiatric hold for no more than 72 hours.
4. The patient is given a mental health evaluation and further treatment is recommended based on the results.

The Florida Mental Health Act provides an option for loved ones who recognize that action must occur before an individual hurts themselves or others. It is not uncommon for addicts and alcoholics to feel so hopeless and helpless that they turn to suicide. The Baker Act is a legal way to avoid this tragic end, and give assistance to a loved one when they cannot or will not make the decision for themselves. While it can seem extreme, involuntary commitment to psychiatric care has saved many addicts and alcoholics in the past and continues to serve as a necessary push into recovery for those who need it.

The Marchman Act

Used to get a loved one into substance abuse treatment

Florida’s Marchman Act is a statute that assists families in getting their loved ones court-ordered and monitored stabilization and long-term treatment for substance abuse. Enacted in 1993, this law allows for the involuntary assessment, stabilization, and treatment for those who are deemed unable to make the decision for themselves.

“Substance abuse is a major health problem with profoundly disturbing consequences such as serious impairment, chronic addiction, criminal behavior, vehicular casualties, spiraling health care costs, AIDS, and business losses.

A disease which affects the whole family and the whole society requires specialized prevention, intervention, and treatment services that support and strengthen the family unit.”

– The Florida Marchman Act – F.S. §397.305

The Process

1. A sworn affidavit is signed at the local county courthouse or clerk’s office.

2. A hearing is set before the court after a Petition for Involuntary Assessment and Stabilization is filed.

3. Following the hearing, the individual is held for up to five days for medical stabilization and assessment.

4. A Petition for Treatment must be filed with the court and a second hearing is held for the court to review the assessment.

5. Based on the assessment and the recommendation that the individual needs extended help, the judge can then order a 60-day treatment period with a possible 90-day extension, if necessary.

6. If the addict exits treatment in violation of the judge’s order, the addict must return to court and answer to the court as to why they did not comply with treatment. Then the individual is returned immediately for involuntary care.

7. If the addict refuses, they are held in civil contempt of court for not following treatment order and are ordered to either return to treatment or be incarcerated.

The Reality — In many cases the threat or initial filing of the Marchman Act is enough to get reluctant addicts to agree to treatment, to avoid the legal and personal hassle.

Because addiction is a medical condition, the process is strictly confidential. All hearings are held in closed courtrooms, and all assessment and treatment records are protected by Federal HIPPA law.

Involuntary Commitments

Involuntary Commitment for Substance Abuse by State

Almost all states have similar options to the Baker Act and the Marchman Act. These can include both inpatient and outpatient care. Since these laws vary on a state level, the criteria for filing can vary as well.

  • California – 5150 (72-hour hold)
  • Pennsylvania – 302 (5-day hold)
  • Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky – Casey’s Law
  • New Jersey – Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT)
  • New York – Kendra’s Law

Involuntary care is a tough situation for everyone involved. No one wants to be held against their will, but being proactive versus reactive in these situations can potentially save a life. It is important that an individual who needs treatment gets the help they deserve. When all else fails, a push in the right direction can be a turning point towards recovery.

If you have questions about whether or not an involuntary commitment for a loved one is the right option, feel free to contact us anytime.

How to Have Someone Involuntary Committed

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