The involuntary commitment of a person in California to a mental health facility can be a complicated process that involves successfully navigating state laws, treatment protocols, and patient rights.
This is why it is vital to have a legal advocate guide you and keep you a step ahead to ensure your rights and protection are a priority.
What Is a Civil Commitment in California?
If someone is admitted to a California state hospital through a civil commitment, this means they require physically secure 24-hour care because they have been found by the court to be a danger to themselves, a danger to others, or unable to provide for their own basic needs because of a mental illness.
In California, this civil commitment process to a state hospital is part of the Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) Act, which requires that the person being committed must be a danger to himself or others for continuous periods of time. It is also required that a judicial review is performed.
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What Kind of Mental Health Treatment Is Given When Committed?
Treatment programs for those who have been involuntarily committed to a state mental health facility vary and will be individualized, depending on each person’s case. Common to each case is that all patients are assigned a team consisting of a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, rehabilitation therapist, and nurses.
Factors that vary from patient to patient that will affect the treatment plan, which is based on the person’s needs, strengths, and commitment type, include:
- The focus of the treatment
- The risk factor levels involved
- The discharge criteria
- The overall objectives
- Interventions, if any
What Is the Goal of an Involuntary Commitment in California?
The overall goal of the treatment program in an involuntary commitment is to prepare patients for discharge and a successful life after that back in a community. Some patients, however, may face a criminal trial or a prison sentence.
Treatment plans can include the following:
- Learning how to develop coping and social skills
- Learning how to manage symptoms and medications
- Learning how to budget and manage money
- Learning how to plan and prep meals
- Help with alcohol or drug abuse
- Educational support
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Is a Court Order Required to Involuntarily Commit Someone?
Yes, admission into a California state hospital to be involuntarily committed requires a court order to show that the patient poses a danger to themselves or others.
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What Is a Conditional Release?
A Conditional Release, known as CONREP, is when committed patients are permitted to transition from being in a hospital to living back in a California community if they participate in this outpatient treatment system.
The Department of State Hospital’s (DSH) CONREP treatment plan is designed by specialists and approved by the committing court for patients with these commitment types:
- Mentally disordered offenders
- Those who are not guilty by reason of insanity
- Those who are incompetent to stand trial
The ultimate goal of CONREP is to serve as an effective outpatient treatment plan to ensure public protection in California communities while providing an effective and standardized outpatient treatment system.
What Is a 5150 Hold?
It is not legal for a police officer or mental health professional to commit you solely based on your mental illness. You can only be taken into custody and committed if they believe that your mental illness will cause or you will suffer from specific kinds of harm.
In California, this is referred to as a 5150 hold, which means law enforcement and mental health professionals may take you into a psychiatric hold for up to 72 hours if they come to the conclusion that:
- You are a danger to yourself, having threatened or attempted self-harm or suicide.
- You are a danger to others, making threats or attempting to harm others.
- You are gravely disabled, or you are no longer able to provide your own food, clothing, or shelter because of a mental health disorder.
What Is a 5250 Hold?
During the 5150 hold, mental health professionals will examine you to decide whether you can be safely released back into society, if involuntary commitment would be best, or if you need additional treatment for a 5250 hold, or 14 more days of treatment.
What Are the Steps to Take to Involuntarily Commit Someone?
While the steps vary from state to state, in California, the steps within the general process to involuntarily commit someone to a mental health facility include:
- A police officer, mental health professional, or private citizen (by calling 911) starts an emergency psychiatric hold for someone to be evaluated for involuntary commitment.
- After the officer takes that person into custody on an emergency hold, a judge or magistrate will issue a court order to detain the person for a period of time while a mental health evaluation is conducted.
- A qualified mental health professional performs the evaluation, interviews the person and other related parties, completes a pre-screening report, and submits it to a judge.
- If the report recommends commitment and the judge agrees, the person will be involuntarily hospitalized for a set period of time.
- Staff at the mental health facility can release the person before the set commitment period if deemed psychiatrically stable before that point.
What Are the Rights of Someone During an Involuntary Commitment?
The rights of someone during an involuntary hold that cannot be legally denied include:
- Free from abuse or neglect
- Humane care
- Religious freedom and practice
- Social activities and recreation
- Free from discrimination
What Rights May Be Denied During an Involuntary Commitment?
There are certain rights that may be denied to someone in an involuntary hold if the mental health professional in charge has good reason to believe that allowing the specific right would cause:
- Injury to themselves or others
- A serious infringement on the rights of others
- Severe damage to the facility
The specific rights that could be denied include:
- Seeing visitors
- Using a telephone or accepting calls
- Wearing your own clothing
- Having money
- Receiving mail
- Having writing materials
- Keeping and using personal possessions
- Access to storage space
It is crucial to speak to a skilled attorney if you have any concerns about your loved one and their well-being.
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