Thursday, December 20, 2007

More Useful Information on Baker Act for Elders

by Maria C Gallo, Esquire.

I think I have explained the Baker Act procedure before but if not, here's how it is suppose to work (or least how it works in our circuit).

Baker Acts are fairly common in law enforcement arenas. A person who is suicidal or a person who exhibits odd AND injurious behavior, either to themselves or others, are at risk for being Baker Acted.

This is for the safety of that individual and for the public at large. A person is taken, involuntarily, to a hospital, mental health facility or, in our circuit, the Crisis Stabilization Unti. That individual is then placed under observation, usually for 72 hours.

If it is determined that the individual is NOT a threat to himself or others, he is released (or should be - if he is not released, that is a civil rights violation. More on that later.)

If the person is determined to be a threat to himself or others, a Baker Act hearing is held. The alleged impaired person is appointed an attorney to challenge the on-going detention in a mental facility and to fight treatment if it determined that it is not appropriate or if treatment is not what the client wants. Baker Acts do not give authority to any other person to then be able to raid that alleged impaired person's property.

That would require a different kind of hearing. And certainly any Powers of Attorney written by the alleged impaired person are no good.

Any person taking property from the alleged impaired person while they are in observation is not permissible and prosecution of that would be up to the State Attorney in that circuit.It is common, but unethical and/or illegal, to Baker Act someone without proper cause merely in order to get guardianship or improper access to the alleged impaired person's property.

This is exploitation of the elderly or exploitation of a vulnerable adult and both are crimes. Both can be reported to the Department of Children and Families Adult Protection Division (the abuse hotline) which in Florida is 1-800-96-ABUSE.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I have worked in a Baker Act recieving facility for some years now. I have seen my share of violent acts of aggression from mentally ill people. At first, I myself was stunned when the first elderly patient was admitted. He was diagnosed as Psychosis NOS, a few days later the Psychiatrist determined he was suffering from Dementia. This is a debilitatating disease in elderly characterized by short term memory impairment, cognitive distortion, fear of not knowing their surroundings. Out of fear they lash out in a violent manner not knowing what they are doing, they have been known to seriously injure female nurses in Nursing homes. When that happens the E.R. reclassifies their diagnosis to Psychosis and they are Baker Acted. Over the years I have experienced many acts of agression and violent behavior by the elderly. Anti Psychotic medication such as Haldol and Ativan cannot be used because Haldol cause muscle atrophy in elderly. Only small doses of Ativan can be used. This is a heartbreaking disease that strikes our elderly, to see a kind, quiet, meek old gentleman become so violent. Did you know that something as simple as a change in color on the floor can cause a violent act. In dementia, a color change for them is percieved as a depth percetion change in their mind and they believe they are falling and that you pushed them. So at times a small stay in a Psychiatric facility cruel as it seems is the best place for them until the doctors can stabilize them on medication that their system can tolarate. They are well cared for and protected.