Do you have a loved one struggling with addiction? If so, you may feel helpless. How can you help your family member get help if he or she refuses to enter treatment? Because of how challenging this can be, many people simply retreat, unable to move forward. That doesn’t have to be the case. In Florida, the Baker Act and Marchman Act can provide the necessary tools to help an individual get the treatment he or she needs.
Who May Be Able to Get Help?
In some situations, it may be necessary to force a person to get the help they need through substance abuse treatment. Before this occurs, most families should try interventions, a step we can assist with at FHE Health. However, even when incredible opportunities are offered to individuals, it’s not uncommon for some people to continue to deny the need for treatment. This is where the Florida Marchman Act comes into play.
There are two acts present. The Baker Act applies to instances of mental illness; the Marchman Act applies to individuals with substance abuse. Both provide the same basic level of support — they work to help an individual who is at risk get help. However, for this to occur, an individual must meet specific criteria. Take a closer look at who may qualify under both laws.
Baker Act Criteria
- A person is unable to determine if he or she needs an examination or refuses an examination AND
- There is a high likelihood that the person will harm themselves either through refusing to care for themselves or through self-neglect. Additionally, there is no way to avoid this with the help of family members.
- OR, there is the likelihood that the person will cause harm to other people or to himself or herself in the near future
Marchman Act Criteria
- The individual is at risk to other people or the individual is likely to cause self-harm
- The individual cannot make rational decisions about the care he or she needs
In both cases, the law provides assistance to families through the court system to require a person to obtain help. This is a court-ordered action. It is also likely to be monitored by the courts over the period of care. It may include care to help stabilize the individual’s health or support through detox. In some situations, it can also apply to long-term treatment for substance abuse or mental health needs.
Who Can Seek Out Care for Their Loved One?
Not just anyone can request that the court take this action. Generally, there must be significant evidence that the individual needs help. It also takes support from doctors in many cases. Here’s who is able to file for this type of help for a loved one.
Baker Act Filing
- Psychiatric nurses
- Mental health counselors
- Clinical social workers
- Therapists (those sought for marital or family support)
Under this law, the professional must provide a full examination of the person to make this decision. They must make that decision within 48 hours of examining the individual.
Marchman Act Filing
- Licensed physicians
- Law enforcement officers
This law is a bit different. Under it, a law enforcement officer or a doctor can require a person to enter treatment immediately even when there is no court order to do so. Doctors must provide an assessment within the previous five days to make this decision. Law officers do not have to hear any intent to harm directly or observe any action specifically. Rather, the officer can hear information from a third party, gather evidence and then take a person into custody with the sole goal of transporting the individual to a crisis center.
Family Member Filing
It is possible for a family member, such as a blood relative or a spouse, to request this type of help. It is also possible for any other three people — not related to the individual but who have specific knowledge of the substance abuse — to take action. This allows people who may not have any type of family to still benefit under this law.
Family members may find this limiting, but it does not have to be. If you want to ensure your loved one obtains the help he or she needs, you can speak to a law officer to request help in filing under the Act. Additionally, a health professional can also be contacted and worked with by a family member. You, the friend or family member, may need to provide detailed information about what occurred.
What Do You Need to Do to Take Action?
If you have a health professional or a law enforcement officer who is able to support your efforts, that should be the first step you take. Contact these individuals with information to verify what is occurring. However, if you would like to take action on your own, there are several steps to take. You may wish to work with an attorney (though you do not have to do so).
A family member must fill out paperwork at the local court office to request support under these laws. The document is called a Petition for Involuntary Assessment and Stabilization. More information and access to these forms can be found at the Florida Department of Children and Families. The local court office can also help.
A hearing is then held in the court. Then, the individual can be brought into custody for a full medical stabilization and assessment. A second hearing is held to review those findings so the judge can decide on the type of help the individual needs. This can include a 60-day treatment with as much as a 90-day extension.
What makes these laws important and unique is that they carry consequences for those who do not obtain the help needed. If the individual leaves treatment during the court-ordered stay, that individual can be held in contempt of court. Additionally, the court can require the individual to go back to treatment at that time. If the individual leaves again or fails to return, jail time is an option.
Should You Take This Step?
Many loved ones do not want to take this step — and if possible, avoiding it is best. Many people with a substance abuse disorder or mental illness are unable to make these decisions for themselves, even after an intervention. This is when it becomes necessary to seek out care from professionals. Our team at FHE Health works closely with you to help you in this process as much as possible. If you feel your loved one is in danger, contact a professional today for immediate help.