As a friend or family member, when a loved one is struggling with addiction or alcoholism, you want to do everything you can to help him get better and turn his life around. But despite multiple conversations, interventions, ultimatums, and attempts to commit to positive change, an individual will often continue to refuse to seek treatment – even though everyone else can see the situation is dire and desperate.
That’s why, in some states, laws such as The Marchman Act and the Baker Act exist to involuntarily commit an individual to seek help. The Marchman Act and the Baker Act may be legal avenues for you to force your loved one into substance abuse or mental health treatment and get on the road to recovery. Let’s take a closer look at these statutes and how they work.
Marchman Act vs Baker Act
The Marchman Act and Baker Act have similar outcomes – placing an individual in court-mandated treatment – but different requirements and situational applications.
Florida’s Marchman Act, first enacted in 1993, allows for the examination and involuntary or emergency commitment of an individual for substance abuse. This step can be taken when an individual no longer has control over their addiction, becoming a danger to themselves and others. It can help lead to involuntary assessment, stabilization, and treatment for those who are deemed unable to make the decision for themselves. There is a burden of proof that falls on the person filing this act, and he/she must demonstrate that the individual
1) Has lost the power of self-control in regards to their substance abuse
2) Has refused to seek voluntary care.
The Florida Mental Health Act of 1971, also known as the Florida Baker Act, is similar to the Marchman Act, but focused on mental health concerns. This can be initiated by law enforcement, court judges, physicians, or mental health professionals, and there must be substantial evidence that the person in question has a mental disorder, intent to harm oneself or others, or be self-neglectful. During a crisis situation (i.e. threats of suicide or self-harm), a third party can submit an affidavit to get an individual “Baker-Acted” through the circuit court.
The Marchman Act and Baker Act can both be life-saving avenues for families who feel they are at the end of their rope and out of viable options. Oftentimes, individuals can feel so helpless in the throes of drug or alcohol addiction that they become suicidal. Every situation is case-by-case, but these acts can be effective at saving lives and helping someone in dire need of treatment to kickstart the recovery process.
Which States Have the Marchman and the Baker Act?
While the Marchman and Baker Act are specific to Florida, the majority of states – including the following – have laws for involuntary commitment on some level.
- District of Columbia
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
How Do I File a Marchman Act?
The Marchman Act is specific to Florida. The statute states: “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.”
In most counties, the required paperwork can be filed at the courthouse for that county. That paperwork, in addition to any sworn testimony, usually involves the county clerk’s office. There is usually a specific department for mental health, probate, or similar services.
The following parties can petition the court for a Marchman Act:
- Blood relative (mother, father, sibling, etc.)
- Any three people who have direct knowledge of the individual’s substance abuse (The law permits this because, in certain cases, family members may not be involved in the individual in question’s life).
The process for filing is as follows:
- A sworn affidavit is signed at the local county courthouse or clerk’s office.
- A hearing is set before the court after a Petition for Involuntary Assessment and Stabilization is filed.
- Following the hearing, the individual is held for up to five days for medical stabilization and assessment.
- A Petition for Treatment must be filed with the court and a second hearing is held for the court to review the assessment.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
More often than not, this process doesn’t play out fully. Sometimes, families seeking help for a loved one find that the simple threat or initial filing of the Marchman Act will push a reluctant addict to agree to seek treatment in order to avoid costly legal proceedings and/or personal inconveniences.
How Do I File a Baker Act?
The Florida Mental Health Act of 1971 (The Baker Act) reads, “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 process to file a Baker Act is as follows:
- The individual is committed by means of a law enforcement officer, a physician, or a sworn affidavit from another individual.
- A law enforcement officer takes the person into custody and transports them to a receiving mental health facility.
- The individual is examined and placed on a psychiatric hold for no more than 72 hours.
- The patient is given a mental health evaluation and further treatment is recommended based on the results.
What Happens to Someone Who is Baker Acted?
The affected individual goes to a receiving center, which is a mental health facility or a hospital qualified and equipped to treat Baker Act patients.
Will a Marchman Act or Baker Act Affect My Loved One in the Future?
Friends and family who are forward thinking and considering these actions may be wondering, “Will this involuntary commitment affect my loved one in the future, once he’s in recovery and finally doing better?”
You might be concerned about an individual’s future prospects for employment, renting or buying a home, or something else entirely. But good news: this filing will never be included on an individual’s legal record. The intent of the Marchman and Baker Act is treatment, not punishment. Additionally, because mental health and addiction are medical conditions, the process is strictly confidential and proceedings take place in a closed courtroom, with all treatment and assessment records protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Get Help Today!
While it may seem extreme, involuntary commitment to psychiatric care has saved countless lives affected by addiction, drugs and alcohol, and continues to serve as a crucial nudge into recovery for those who need it.
If you or a loved one is struggling and seeking treatment options, Creekside Recovery Residences – with sober living housing options in both Atlanta, Marietta, St. Petersburg and Tampa – can assist in providing resources and options, including detox facility recommendations and/or interventionists with years of experience assisting families and individuals. We know what you’re going through and you’re not alone – we are here to help.
Call us now at 470-460-6688 or fill out the contact form below.