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How a Bad Law and a Big Mistake Drove My Mentally Ill Son Away


Situations that affect many people here - and something to be aware of:

First, the standard of “imminent danger to oneself or others,” which is sufficient to order a short period of involuntary commitment in many states, is ludicrous and often counterproductive. It results both in mistakes like ours and in worse problems at the other end of the spectrum, when it requires the release of individuals who are truly dangerous but who don’t meet the “imminent” standard.

Even if an individual is confirmed to be dangerous, the Baker Act allows him or her to be held for 90 days; a judicial hearing can then extend the commitment by another 90 days — far from enough time to provide any meaningful or sustained treatment.

Second, a system that keeps loved ones from any involvement in the treatment of people with serious mental illness, especially those who do not know or believe they are ill, is cruel and ineffective.

Finally, a vast majority of those with serious mental illness are not dangerous. We need a way to treat them, while also recognizing that failure to treat the small share who might be violent can lead to tragedies like suicide and murder.

The Baker Act is not going to solve these problems. We have far too few beds in mental health facilities, so most people who have a serious illness and are picked up for offenses like vagrancy from homelessness or drug possession (many people with mental illness self-medicate with drugs) end up in jails, where they lack treatment and almost invariably deteriorate.

Common-sense reforms, like ending a foolish Medicaid restriction that cuts off money for some larger mental health facilities, would help. But what is really required is a comprehensive treatment framework and the money to pay for it.

Read the full story:


What a sad story and so common among us.


How can we change these laws ?


Work with the national mental health support groups and advocacy organizations to change the laws. Here are some:



in Canada: