Mental Illness and Substance Abuse  

The Clerk's Mental Health Division maintains the court's records when a person is involuntarily committed for treatment of a mental illness or substance abuse. The law governing mental illnesses is commonly referred to as "The Baker Act," and the law governing substance abuse is often called "The Marchman Act." 
 
The Mental Health Division also maintains records pertaining to protective services for disabled adults or elderly persons; persons with developmental disabilities; persons with tuberculosis; judicial determinations of incapacity and the restoration of capacity; and guardian advocates.
 
Who may file the petition to have a person involuntarily placed for treatment of a
mental illness?
A court may enter an order requiring a person to be examined if, based on the sworn testimony of others, it appears that the person is mentally ill and because of the mental illness has refused a voluntary examination or is unable to determine for himself or herself whether an examination is necessary. The sworn testimony should be given by persons, preferably three in number, who have personal knowledge of the behavior.
If it appears that a person should be involuntarily placed in a facility for treatment, a petition is filed by the administrator of the facility where the person was temporarily located. The administrator's petition must be accompanied by the opinions of two psychiatrists.
 
Who may file the petition to have a person assessed for substance abuse?
If the person who appears to require assessment is an adult, a petition to have the person examined may be filed by a spouse, guardian, relative, physician, psychologist, clinical social worker, or three adults who have personal knowledge of the person's substance abuse impairment.
 
If the person who appears to require assessment is a minor, a petition to have the person examined may be filed by a parent, legal guardian, legal custodian, or a service provider.
 
Who may file the petition to have a person treated for substance abuse?
If the person who appears to require treatment is an adult, a petition to have the person admitted for treatment may be filed by a spouse, guardian, relative, service provider, or three adults who have personal knowledge of the person's substance abuse impairment and the prior course of assessment.
 
If the person who appears to require treatment is a minor, a petition to have the person admitted for treatment may be filed by a parent, legal guardian, or a service provider.
 
I know a person who is in jail and who I believe to be mentally ill. Can I file a petition
to request that this person be moved to a mental health facility for evaluation
and treatment?
No. The court with jurisdiction over the defendant's criminal charges takes precedence. However, the Orange County Corrections Division employs a staff psychologist who screens individuals for mental illness. For more information, call (407) 254-7557.
 
Do I need an attorney to file a petition for the examination, assessment, or treatment of a mental illness or substance abuse?
No; however, a court may order or the law will require that an attorney be appointed to represent the interests of the respondent.
 
Why do I have to come in person to the Clerk's office to file a petition for the examination, assessment, or treatment of a mental illness or substance abuse?
The petition to have a person examined, assessed, or treated for mental illness or substance abuse must be based upon the sworn testimony or personal knowledge of the petitioner(s). Therefore, you must appear in person at the Clerk's office to take an oath.
 
Why is it important to know where the person is physically located at the time a petition
is filed?
According to Florida law, a petition seeking to commit a person for examination, assessment, or treatment of mental illness or substance abuse must be filed in the county where the person is located.
 
How long will a person remain in a facility if committed for an examination, assessment, or treatment?
Mental Illness: If the person is committed for mental illness, and the person is committed for the purpose of examination, the person must be examined within 72 hours. If the person is committed for treatment, a facility may retain the patient for a period not to exceed 6 months. A person assigned to less restrictive treatment alternatives will usually undergo an average treatment period of about 4 weeks.
 
Substance Abuse: If the person is committed for substance abuse, and the person is committed for the purpose of assessment, the person must be assessed within 5 days. If the person is committed for treatment, the person may not be detained for more than 60 days unless the court orders an extension upon a petition for renewal.
 
Can I file another petition for commitment if the treating facility discharges the patient within the evaluation or assessment period?
No. If an examining physician finds that a patient meets the criteria for continued treatment of a mental illness, the treating facility will petition for involuntary placement. Otherwise, the patient is released or treated on a voluntary basis. In the case of substance abuse, a qualified professional assesses the patient to determine whether further involuntary treatment is required. If not, the patient is released or referred for treatment on a voluntary basis.
 
Can the judge order a person to take medicine if the person has been discharged from the treating facility?
No. The jurisdiction of the court's authority ends when the person is discharged from the treating facility.
 
Are the court records pertaining to the involuntary treatment of mental illnesses or substance abuse confidential?
No. Court records are open for public inspection unless a law or a court order specifically provides that a certain type of record is not confidential. According to Florida law, the clinical records of a patient being treated for mental illness are confidential. Similarly, the records of a substance abuse service provider are confidential. All other court records are open for public inspection unless the court orders otherwise.
 
Who pays for the treatment of mental illness or substance abuse?
Mental Illness: It is the policy of the State of Florida that no person will be denied treatment because of the inability to pay for it. However, if the person receiving treatment or someone responsible for that person is able to pay for treatment, efforts will be made to collect for the services.
Substance Abuse: Service providers who receive state funds may not deny services based solely upon an individual's inability to pay for treatment, provided that there are adequate space and resources available. A person who has received treatment, or the parent or legal guardian of a minor who received treatment, must contribute toward the cost of substance abuse services.
 
What facility is a person required to go to for the evaluation of a mental illness?
A person who is committed for involuntary examination must be taken to the nearest "receiving facility." According to Florida law, a receiving facility is a facility designated by the Department of Children and Family Services to receive and hold involuntary patients for psychiatric evaluation. Lakeside Alternatives, Florida Hospital South, Central Florida Behavioral and University Behavioral are the public receiving facilities designated by the Department of Children and Family Services.
 
Where are these facilities and are there any facilities similar to these for the treatment of substance abuse?
  • Lakeside Alternatives 
    434 West Kennedy Boulevard
    Orlando, Florida 32810
    (407) 875-3700

  • Florida Hospital South
    601 E. Rollins Street
    Orlando, Florida 32806
    (407) 303-4800

  • Central Florida Behavioral Hospital
    6601 Central Florida Parkway
    Orlando, Florida 32831
    (407) 370-0111

  • University Behavioral Center
    2500 Discovery Drive
    Orlando, Florida 32826
    (407) 281-7000

Substance Abuse Facilities:

  • Center for Drug-Free Living
    501 North Orange Avenue
    Orlando, Florida 32801
    (407) 245-0012

  • Temporary Living Center
    1717 Piedmont-Wekiva Road
    Apopka, Florida 32703
    (407) 880-1221

    Note: Temporary Living Center only accepts female patients who are pregnant or who have recently had a baby.
 
What is a guardian advocate and how is that different from a guardian?
A guardian advocate is a person appointed by the court to make decisions regarding mental health treatment for a person who has been found incompetent to consent to treatment. A guardian advocate's duties end when the person has regained the capacity to consent to treatment or when the person is discharged from a receiving or treatment facility to the community.
 
A guardian is a person appointed by the court to act on behalf of a ward's person or property, or both.
 
Can you recommend a psychiatrist, a psychologist, an attorney, or a health care facility specializing in the treatment of mental illness or substance abuse?
No. The Clerk must remain impartial with regard to all proceedings. Although the Clerk's employees work with and respect the professionals in the Central Florida area who are associated with the treatment of mental illness or substance abuse, we refer all inquiries to the following agencies:
  • Mental Health Association - (407) 898-0110
Are pamphlets available that explain the laws governing mental illnesses and
substance abuse?
No. However, the Orange County Public Library houses the law library, where the text of these laws, as well as other sources, are available. The Baker Act is in Chapter 394 of the Florida Statutes, and the Marchman Act is in Chapter 397 of the Florida Statutes. The library is located at 101 East Central Boulevard, Orlando, Florida 32801.