Legislature approves updates to Baker Act, Marchman Act

mental health (Large)
The bill opens communications and outlaws institutionalizing someone on false pretenses.

The Legislature unanimously approved a number of changes to Florida laws regarding the involuntarily institutionalized.

The House on Tuesday unanimously approved the mental health and substance abuse legislation (SB 1262) that updates statutes regarding Baker Act and Marchman Act patients. These laws allow family and loved ones to force individuals into facilities to care for mental health issues or drug abuse.

But individuals put in institutions under these state laws often have little way to communicate with the outside world, including about abuse.

The Florida Behavioral Health Association (FBHA) praised the changes. Specifically, the group heralded Sen. Danny Burgess, a Zephyrhills Republican, and Rep. Ralph Massullo, a Lecanto Republican, for championing the bills through the process.

“This good bill makes things ‘a little less complicated’ for families seeking mental health services,” said Melanie Brown Woofter, president and CEO of the FBHA.

The Senate unanimously approved the bill on Thursday. If signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, it will make it a first-degree misdemeanor for someone to furnish false information to get someone institutionalized or to conspire to get the Baker or Marchman Acts implemented under false pretenses.

It also calls for patients to be able to release clinical information to people they know within 24 hours of being admitted. It also clarifies telehealth methods can be used to authorize a discharge and directs facilities to share information with the Department of Children and Families to analyze use of the Baker Act.

Language in the bill changes how the Commission on Mental Health and Substance Abuse does business in significant ways, including authorizing the commission to conduct meetings remotely or in-person, to receive per diem pay and reimbursement for travel, and for members to access records and information once deemed confidential.

The Baker Act allows a court, police officer or medical professional to determine someone with a mental illness must be committed because they pose a danger to themselves or others, even if they decline to check themselves in for treatment. State law allows that person to be kept institutionalized for up to 72 hours.

The Marchman Act allows courts, and in some cases law enforcement, to order someone receive treatment for substance abuse for similar reasons. It also allows parents, legal guardians or custodians of minors to admit the children for addiction treatment.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


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