The Baker Act is the law for psychiatric evaluation in Florida. Every state, in the country, has a law for psychiatric holds and each state has two categories of a psychiatric hold. It can either be voluntary or involuntary and, typically, the individual or family of the patient, are unaware that they can be held longer than 72 hours. In the Baker Act, a voluntary hold is an indefinite hold, until the patient, the family or a friend, requests the patient’s discharge. So, a patient can be brought into the psychiatric ward and told they have to sign voluntary, when in fact, they never have to agree to voluntary, and because they don’t know they can request discharge, they may be held a lot longer than 72 hours.
The involuntary psychiatric hold is up to 72 hours. If the patient does not meet the criteria to be Baker Acted, the facility must release the patient. There are specific provisions within the law that protect the patient.
Many families and many individuals are caught off-guard by an urgent situation that results in a Baker Act, and it is especially difficult if they are not told the rights that they have under the Baker Act. Mental Health Rights Advocacy, a Florida nonprofit, will help to inform you of the rights you or your loved one does have. Our hotline is available seven days a week and the number is 727-686-1852