Do I need to file a Marchman Act and/or a Guardianship instead of a Baker Act?

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Hello, everyone! Welcome to another edition of our video newsletter. I want to discuss why you do not wish to file a Baker Act; you want to file a Marchman Act, a Guardianship, or both.

We get calls all the time from families who want us to file a Baker Act on their behalf or to Baker Act a loved one into a facility, and I typically tell them no. I’m not going to do that. If it’s an emergency, you need to call 911 and ask the police to come out there along with the emergency medical technicians and let them decide if a Baker Act is appropriate. This is because the baker act is not a treatment statute. It is designed for emergency stabilization only, and I’ve talked about the pluses and minuses of the Baker Act in many of the videos that you’ll find on our website and online. Again, I’m not filing a Baker Act for you. If it’s an emergency, call 911.

Most of the time, families try to get their loved ones into treatment. They want to get them help, and I totally understand that. So let’s talk about what should be considered as options.

Number one is the Marchman Act. The Marchman Act is Florida’s involuntary commitment statute for substance use and co-occurring mental illness. If your loved one has a substance use disorder and may have a mental health issue, they typically go hand in hand. Then we can talk about doing a Marchman Act. That is a much gentler way of doing things than filing for a Baker Act or getting the police to Baker Act your loved one. The other option is Guardianship. Audra Simavich is my partner here in the law office. She handles all the guardianship cases, and she’s the best guardianship lawyer I know. Those cases are typically done when we’re dealing with somebody who has primary mental illness, or maybe they only have significant issues of anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and eating disorders. These are great cases for Guardianship. It will give you a whole lot more control than a Marchman Act. The Marchman Act is designed specifically to give your loved one the ability to get treatment and give you the ability to make that decision for them. The Guardianship, however, can give you the ability to make treatment decisions for them. But it also gives you the ability to control finances, access their medical records, and control other parts of their lives. It’s more of a hammer than a surgical tool, like a scalpel. Those are other options that you should consider.

Is there a time when the Baker Act might come as part of either a Marchman Act or a guardianship? The answer is yes. There have been times where we’ve done a Marchman Act or Guardianship, and in the middle of the process, the person becomes so destabilized that a clinician must initiate a Baker Act. Again, to initiate an emergency stabilization procedure, does that mean that the Guardianship or the Marchman Act is over? No. It just means that there’s a crisis going on here, and we need to address it. At that moment, we rely on the clinician at one of the facilities to decide for us and initiate a Baker Act.

None of these things are set in stone. What I mean by that is, when you’re dealing with somebody who has substance use or mental illness or both, there are times when the lines get blurred, and I understand that it is a traumatic situation for a family and that the situation is fluid. But it’s a general rule. If you want to get your loved one into treatment, you do not want to do a Baker Act unless it is an emergency. You need to consider the Marchman Act or Guardianship, or sometimes we do a little bit of both together, and I’ll be more than happy to discuss how the two of those things can work together.

With that said, stay safe and be well.

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