What is the Baker Act

What is the Baker Act

If you’ve read through my posts, particularly the one where I spoke about my first inpatient experience, you might be curious about a term that I mentioned. That was the Baker Act.

Read about My First Inpatient Experience.

My wish for you today is peace, and so I offer you a cat tail, which in Victorian times meant peace and prosperity.

About the Baker Act

Cat Tail - Peace and Prosperity
This fuzzy plant represented peace and prosperity in Victorian times.

The Baker Act is part of the Florida Mental Health Act of 1971 and is named after Maxine Baker who sponsored the bill. Although the Bill was enacted in 1971, it was reformed in 2005.

A physician, law enforcement officer, judge, or mental health professional are the only people who can enact this.

You may know this in your state as emergency or involuntary commitment. It does not mean that a person who is Baker Acted will be locked away forever. Quite the contrary, the Baker Act commitment can only last up to 72 hours. Unless the patient has demonstrated no improvement or is a continual danger to themselves or others, they can choose to stay in the hospital voluntarily, if their doctor thinks continued care is required.

Those who are a danger to themselves or others after the 72 hours, maybe court-ordered to remain in care.

Who can be Baker Acted?

Any adult, that is, somebody who is 18 or over who has a mental illness and is deemed to be a danger to themselves or other people, or is neglecting themselves.

For a minor to be involuntarily committed, or Baker Acted, it requires either the minor’s parents’ consent, or a court order, or both.

If you go to the hospital and you have self-harmed or are having suicidal thoughts, and are in the State of Florida, you will be Baker Acted.

My Experiences with the Baker Act

My first hospitalization was via the Baker Act. I had gone to my doctor sobbing, having indulged in self-harm, and generally a mess. My ARNP told me very calmly that she was going to Baker Act me, that a policeman was going to come, and he would take me to a place called the Apalachee Center and they would take care of me. There was no judgment, no harshness, no I-don’t-know-what-to-do-with-you. Was I scared? Heck, yes. Was it the right choice to make? Yes.

My second experience was maybe a week and a half after discharge from the Apalachee Center. I had gone to the emergency room with a bad anxiety attack and having scratched and cut at myself a little. I was taken via ambulance to one of the two hospitals in Tallahassee. Again, there was no judgment, just worry, and concern.

Ambulance rides aren’t fun, just as a fyi.

My third was my last visit to the hospital, and even though I went to the ER voluntarily, because I had multiple superficial cuts on my arm, and because I had to stop myself from overdosing on over the counter sleeping medication the day prior, they Baker Acted me anyway.

I’ve been in the hospital five times now, and at this point, I’m familiar with the proceedings.

What Can You Expect if You are Involuntarily Committed?

First things first, they’re going to have somebody watching you at all times. In a larger hospital it might be security, in a smaller hospital they may put you on a stretcher right outside the nurses’ station. They’ll have you remove all but your undergarments, and put on a gown. (You’ll have relative privacy for that, though they may need to stand in the room with you.) All your belongings will be put in a bag and put either with security or at the nurses’ station and will be gone through later.

If the hospital has a floor dedicated to behavioral health, you’ll be sent there, providing they have room for you, if not you’ll be sent via ambulance or police officer to another facility. Your things will come with you and the nurses will go through them and anything that isn’t contraband will be given to you.

Hey! What About My Stuff?

Things like a belt, money, your wallet, cellphone, and anything with strings, like a hoodie or pajama pants, will be put up in either a safe (for your money, cell, and wallet) or a locker (belt, laced shoes, things with strings if the string can’t be removed or you don’t want it cut out). Everything you have with you will be logged and after you review it they’ll sign the inventory paper and so will you. You’ll review it again when you’re discharged, and they give everything back to you.

In my experiences, they all take your vitals, do a blood test, and an EKG. My last visit I had some problems with my heart rate going too high (149 at one point!) and so I stayed in the ER longer than typical because of the tests they wanted to do to make sure that I was healthy enough to go to the 7th floor.

Some facilities will give you some toiletries and others will dole them out during shower time, or when you ask. Some will have private bathrooms, others will have several shared bathrooms (one person at a time still). Some facilities will leave the bedroom doors open all day, others will have them locked during the daytime. Some have lots of groups, some just have one or two. Some places will have private rooms, some will have doubles. It really all varies.

Usually, you’ll see an ARNP or doctor on your first day. You may speak to one of the social workers, and you’ll see the psychiatrist each day. Somebody, whether it’s a Mental Health Tech or an RN will check on you every 15 minutes during your stay. They will also usually have a Quiet Room where you can go if you get overwhelmed by things and need some space.

Do the Other States Have the Baker Act

Most states, if not all, will have some sort of statute to protect people that will be in some manner similar to the Baker Act. They may not have a name like Baker Act, but according to my research California has an involuntary psychiatric hold, and New York has Kendra’s Law which has to do with involuntary outpatient commitment.


To read more the Florida Mental Health Act regarding minor children, feel free to check out http://www.cchrflorida.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Myers_Workgroup_2009.pdf

To read the entire text of the Florida Mental Health Act, check out this link: http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0300-0399/0394/0394.html

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