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Pulling Back the Curtain on Mental Health: Part 2

Pulling Back the Curtain on Mental Health: Part 2

by Traci Graf, RN

Part 1 of this article discussed different ways to identify psychiatric issues in the elderly population. Part 2 is hopefully going to provide direction on what resources are available to the community in the event of a mental health crisis. There are 2 options when you recognize a loved one needs help; voluntary or involuntary treatment called an ex parte order.


The Baker Act criteria for involuntary commitment applies when a patient lacks the ability to decide if they need treatment, refuses treatment, and/or if the patient displays a level of self-neglect that could result in harming themselves or others. It allows for a 72-hour period of observation and assessment. Mental Health professionals, police, and doctors can initiate an involuntary commitment. A second option called the Marchman Act is designed for families who are seeking involuntary commitment based on addiction and substance abuse issues. Family members may petition the court system if the patient does not meet Baker Act criteria, but is still in danger of severe self-neglect or harm. However, it’s a lengthy process that requires dedicated effort, and must have an accepting facility with an open bed on the day of the hearing. There are only two receiving centers in Brevard County for acute inpatient; Circles of Care and Rockledge Medical Center.


The lack of inpatient psychiatric beds in our county leads to only the sickest, most disruptive patients receiving treatment. After inpatient treatment, long-term success depends on getting into outpatient services. They will need regular visits to a psychiatrist for medication management. Outpatient activities like art, exercise, and gardening are supportive. Consider alternative therapies like pets or equine therapy. Create new routines that assist with decreasing stressors, and allow for a quiet, uncomplicated environment.


In the case of dire physical symptoms or a medical emergency, you would certainly seek medical attention. A psychiatric emergency is no different, and sometimes requires immediate intervention. Don’t be afraid of the involuntary commitment process that many perceive as taking away of rights. If your loved one had a heart attack and was unable to decide on life saving treatment, would you be concerned about a violation of their rights? Or, would you prefer the experts work to save their lives? There is help available, and persistence with help from your doctor is the key to success.

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