The Baker Act was passed into law in 1971 and enacted in 1972. Developed by Maxine Baker, the law was created to protect individuals from being unnecessarily committed to a psychiatric hospital. The law focuses on establishing and protecting patient’s rights as well as encouraging people to voluntarily commit to treatment, rather than being mandated to treatment. The Baker Act allows medical professionals, law enforcement and judges to determine if a person needs to be involuntarily committed and provides strict rules and guidelines that must be followed in order to be in compliance with the Baker Act.

How Does the Baker Act Related to Addiction?

The Baker Act is often brought up in regards to addiction. This is because in an effort to get an addict into treatment, family member will look for all sorts of different solutions. Having the individual committed is one of those solutions. However, if a person is “Baker Acted” they are not being mandated to treatment. They are being mandated to a psychiatric hospital. Every single treatment center in the United States is willingness-based, meaning no one can be forced into drug and alcohol treatment. If the person is not posing a threat to themselves or others, then it is unlikely that the Baker Act will be enacted.

Most treatment professionals will agree that there are other avenues to explore when trying to get an individual into treatment. Family interventions are oftentimes an excellent choice to convince an addict to get the help they need and prevent law enforcement from getting involved. But, sometimes families do not have that choice because their loved one is pass the point of reason.

Typically Used in More Extreme Cases

If someone has used drugs to the point where they are no longer in the same reality as those around them, the Baker Act may be helpful. There are some drugs like; Xanax, bath salts, cocaine and even alcohol, that can cause a person to develop a psychosis. This means that they are no longer operating off of the same information as everyone else around them. For instance, a person in a drug psychosis may see or hear things that are not there. They may perceive or believe that certain people around them are saying things or doing things that are a threat. These behaviors can be very dangerous to the addict and anyone around them, and these circumstances would certainly warrant a closer look by behavior health experts.

The process of having someone “Baker Acted” is different depending on the state. However, it is generally initiated by law enforcement that have been called to a scene where a person is behaving irrationally and appears to be having some sort of break with reality. Once law enforcement has made this observation they may take the individual directly to the hospital for further observation and so they can be sure that no one, including the individual, is at risk of being harmed.

The amount of time that a person can be held under the Baker Act is 72 hours. When establishing the bill, Maxine Baker wanted to ensure that an individual could expect to be released as soon as they regained the ability to function in society. The 72-hour time limit makes sure that medical professionals are quick to meet with the patient and determine a successful and appropriate avenue of care.