For those who need Baker Act help because, either they or their loved one was Baker Acted, there is help available from Mental Health Rights advocates and Baker Act attorneys. The rights of the individuals may not be explained to them when they are brought in under the Baker Act and that can cause a very upsetting situation for all involved. The Baker Act is used if a person appears to be a threat to themselves or others, and yet the law does state very specific criteria in order for someone to be held in a psychiatric facility against their will. Maxine Baker, the legislator who wrote the law, intended it to be of assistance to those who were, in actuality, a potential harm to themselves or others. Unfortunately, there are many incidences over the decades, since Ms. Baker enacted this law, of individuals being fraudulently brought in under the Baker Act and incidences of individuals who were in need of help and were not placed under the Baker Act. This stems from one source and that is the criteria for those in authority to Baker Act an individual rarely understand the Baker Act. Baker Act help is really about clarification of the existing law so that a person can assert their rights in either situation.
Take for example, an article that was published last year in the NWF Daily News, titled, Baker Act in the spotlight. The article says that the Baker Act even at 42 years old is widely misunderstood. “The Baker Act came under public consideration again last week after it was reported the family of a man accused of killing his mother at their Mary Esther home tried to have him involuntarily committed under the Act less than two days before her death.
The article states, that the authorities had decided the man did not meet the criteria for the Baker Act, two days prior. This area of involuntary commitment is ridden with pitfalls. A person, who is truly in need of assistance, may be overlooked whereas a person who is not a potential harm to themselves may be wrongly brought into the psychiatric ward. Baker Act help would, ideally, be the state of Florida clarifying the criteria in the first place and secondly, a better mental health system. After all, was this man and others, who have committed heinous crimes, on the mental health drugs? That’s the question that should be answered first and foremost. Mental health drugs are prescribed without any medical test having been done to evidence the need for them. They are, in fact, chemical restraints, that may restrain the unwanted behavior, but with certainty, they carry strong FDA warnings that include violence, aggression, mania and homicidal thoughts.
The Daily News article goes on to talk about the training that the Okaloosa Sheriff’s get in regards to the Baker Act. Sheriff’s are trained to spot symptoms of mental illness. Whereas one might think that should be left to mental health professionals, law enforcement officers are put in the awkward situation of having to understand something about the area in order to distinguish who does and does not meet the criteria.
“In Okaloosa and Walton counties, the steps taken during a Baker Act changed after Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Deputy Anthony Forgione was killed in 2008 by a Baker Act patient who escaped from a medical facility.” This tragic incident is one among many that set standards for law enforcement and Florida citizens would benefit from understanding what the criteria are, for the Baker Act, and what the procedure is and what their rights are. An individual, who makes a remark that in anyway can be interpreted as the possibility of self-harm, is likely to be Baker Acted. Anyone who posts something on an Internet forum or Facebook page, that is likely to be interpreted as a threat to others or their self may find themselves brought into the psychiatric ward by law enforcement.
As to whether the Baker Act is even an effective means of helping someone, we need to consider the numbers. The numbers in Okaloosa show that there were 586 Baker Acts this year and “of those, more than 30 were the same people.” It is not highly effective as a treatment if the person is repeatedly getting Baker Acted. The effectiveness of a treatment can be measured by whether it solves the problem or not. Medical doctors do exist around Florida who can perform medical tests to diagnose the physical cause of mania, psychosis, aggression, anxiety, depression and more. The medical tests are performed, evidenced gained, and treatment follows that does not include adverse effects of violence, aggression and self-harm. Many individuals have rid themselves of mental health symptoms by getting a thorough physical exam, having their medical issue resolved with traditional medical treatment (i.e. Hormone balancing, thyroid medication, removal of tumors, treatment for rare blood diseases, nutritional deficiencies and/or intolerances handled).
Baker Act help is available. Mental Health Rights advocates and Baker Act attorneys are available to help you.