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involuntary commitment | Terezia Farkas | depression help | Beliefnet

For someone spinning out of control because of a mental health issue, the idea of commitment may need to be considered.

But involuntary commitment is controversial. It takes away a person’s right. It can cause more harm. It doesn’t always work.

What is involuntary commitment?

Involuntary commitment is a legal process by which a person with symptoms of severe mental illness is court ordered into treatment in a psychiatric hospital (inpatient) or in the community (outpatient).
There has to be an immediate, dangerous threat to the safety of the person or to others.
The person has to be examined by a certified doctor within 48 hours of detention.
A person can enter a psychiatric hospital voluntarily. Hospital staff must verbally and in writing tell the person what his/her rights are. The person must sign a written request for release or have agreed upon a release date. Any longer commitment is illegal.
A person has the right to refuse treatment. 

Standards for committing someone

When a seriously mentally ill person is unable or unwilling to seek treatment, friends and family can use involuntary treatment laws to get the person help. The laws for involuntary commitment are different from state to state. Some states have limited laws, some have broad laws, and some have no laws. The basic standard that must be met is the person is an immediate danger to the self or to others.

The process of petition

Petition is the process by which families can ask either the court for inpatient commitment or for emergency hospitalization. Again, the petition process varies state to state. Even within a state, the right to petition for inpatient commitment might be approved while asking for emergency hospitalization is not approved. Check the laws of your state before deciding which form of petition you can use.

What does dangerous mean?

States have broadened the commitment criteria of “dangerousness” to include “grave disability” and “need-for-treatment”.

Grave disability means a person in danger of physical harm due to the inability to meet basic needs, such as food, clothing, shelter, or personal safety.

Need-for-treatment is used when a person’s mental illness prevents him from seeking voluntary treatment and, without care, will cause the person great suffering.

Length of hospitalization

A sufficient period of treatment is necessary for the committed person to stabilize. Inpatient commitment orders range from 30 – 180 days.
Court ordered hospitalization is temporary. It lasts up to 90 days.
Commitments longer than 90 days need recertification.

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