By Ritisha K. Chhaganlal, J.D. and George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
Christmas is flooding the department stores and malls with candy canes and toys, holly and trees, and bells and carols. It’s the most wonderful time of the year…right? Perhaps for some. But according to University of Central Florida (UCF) police Cpl. Peter Osterrieder, a rise in Baker Acts (involuntary confinement for mental health issues) is to be expected among college students around the winter holidays.
Not only do UCF police expect to see more Baker Acts during this “feel-good” time of year, but as reported by statistics within the police department, Baker Acts among college students are on the rise overall. Just this year, UCF police have committed 94 individuals, mostly college students. That’s triple the number of cases from 2010, and up from 76 cases just last year. UCF police Chief Richard Beary said several factors are likely to have contributed to the annual rise.
What Does it Mean to be “Baker Acted”?
Baker Acts are necessary when a person is mentally unstable and considered a danger to themselves or someone else. Individuals who are Baker Acted can be held for up to three days against their will for an emergency medical evaluation. To be held beyond the 72-hour period, which often happens, the psychiatric treatment facility requires either the voluntary consent of the individual or court intervention. For more information and statistics on Baker Acts, please view the Florida’s Baker Act: 2013 Fact Sheet by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) here.
In our experience representing individuals who have been wrongfully confined, however, we find the law if often violated.
Factors Contributing to Baker Acts Among College Students.
Osterrieder said the stress brought on by semester finals can push students to their breaking point. This is especially true for college freshman spending their first semester away from home, family and friends. Osterrieder commented to reporters for the Orlando Sentinel, “They [college students] don’t have mom and dad to lean on every day, the best friends they’ve had their entire life growing up. That challenge is very difficult for them.” All things considered, college life can become quite overwhelming.
Beary noted the growing student body at UCF as a contributing factor as well. With 63,000 students currently enrolled, UCF is among one of the largest universities in the nation. Beary also acknowledged the increase in public awareness of mental health conditions which results in more calls for help from those suffering, their loved ones or others observing concerning behaviors.
Baker Acts: Naughty or Nice?
While the intention of the involuntary confinement of individuals requiring emergency mental health assistance is pure, erroneous confinement can actually exacerbate the underlying medical or mental health condition for some. Still for others, the existence of a mental health condition is purely speculative and therefore treatment is unnecessary and even harmful.
Knowing your rights as a patient or as the parent of a student under a Baker Act restraint is essential in such cases. Consulting with an experienced health attorney can better guarantee adequate help for you or your loved one.
To read more about Baker Act cases and issues about which to be concerned, read one of our previous blogs here.
For more information on a similar law in the state of Florida for involuntary confinement for individuals with substance abuse problems (called the Marchman Act), click here.
Do you have a student who is being involuntarily confined under the Baker Acted? Do you believe their confinement is erroneous or they are not being adequately treated for their mental health condition?
Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Victims of Involuntary Confinement Through the Baker Act and Marchman Act.
The Health Law Firm represents individuals, families and friends in challenges to and hearings related to the Florida Baker Act and Marchman Act, when the basic criteria for confinement are not met and there is no medical necessity for further confinement.
Our firm has a process we follow to make sure that a person who should not be held under the Baker Act may be released in a very short time. If the basic criteria for a Baker Act confinement are not present, the person is not required to be held and should be released. If the person has been living independently for decades, has family and a support system available, and has had no prior mental health problems, the odds are he or she should not be involuntarily confined. We act immediately to begin our representation, to make the hospital and its physicians aware that we are representing you, and to take measures to obtain release. If required, we are prepared to file an emergency Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus with the local Circuit Court to have you brought before the judge for an emergency release hearing. These cases can be time intensive, require a great deal of immediate work, but can yield fast results in most cases.
To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
Russon, Gabrielle. “Baker Act Cases at UCF Are Soaring.” Orlando Sentinel: Orlando: 5 Dec. 2015. Final ed., sec. A: 1+. Print.
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
Keywords: Baker Act defense attorney, mental health lawyer, involuntary confinement lawyer, health law, Marchman Act defense, Baker Act defense lawyer, Marchman Act lawyer, Marchman Act attorney, health lawyer, substance abuse confinement, Baker Act confinement, mental health treatment, Baker Act confinement criteria, mental instability, involuntary confinement of student, legal representation for Baker Acts, The Health Law Firm, health law attorney
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