Anatomy of a Baker Act: Week 2

Welcome to week 2 of Anatomy of a Baker Act. This week, we will clarify the difference between a Voluntary Admission and Involuntary Admission, as this is often misunderstood by consumers and healthcare providers who do not work in the mental health field.

Firstly, let’s look at the process for Voluntary Evaluation or Admission :

In this case, the person voluntarily arrives at an emergency department or Baker Act receiving facility for evaluation. The person may be experiencing psychosis, depression, suicidal thoughts, etc. The key is that the person willingly presents for evaluation. Many people think that if a person is psychotic that they are so out of touch with reality that they would never do this. However, many patients who live with serious mental illness are aware of acute symptoms and seek help.

What happens next? The person is examined within 24 hours and either discharged (if they do not meet criteria for admission), admitted voluntarily, or are changed to involuntary status. An example of this would be that the person is deemed a risk to themself of others and is in need of emergency treatment but decides he/she no longer wants treatment. This would necessitate the initiation of a Baker Act, as a voluntary patient cannot be admitted against their will.

Secondly, let’s look at the process for Involuntary Examination or Admission. This is intiated by one of three means:
-ex parte order of court
-law enforcement officer
-professional’s certificate

The person is taken into custody by a law enforcement officer (few exceptions available in law) and transported
to the nearest receiving facility for examination. After arrival, the process is similar to that of a voluntary examination. The person can be discharged, made voluntary, or kept involuntarily.

Lastly, it is important to note that the Baker Act process is different than an involuntary evaluation for substance abuse treatment. The process for that is different and primarily falls under the Marchman Act.

Please see the following manual for additional information:

As always, this is not legal advice. If you need legal advice, please consult an attorney.

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