In California, a person experiencing mental distress can be put under a 5150 hold for a 72-hour observation in a mental health facility. These are involuntary holds, meaning the person does not have to give consent to their placement in the facility, and they cannot refuse the placement. Only specific crisis situations warrant 5150 holds.
A mental health lawyer can provide crucial legal advice and possible representation if you or a loved one is placed under a 5150.
How to 5150 Someone in California
Only peace officers and authorized mental health personnel can place a person under a 5150 hold. These placements may be issued after the officer or medical professional interacts with or sees the person in a situation where they pose a danger to themselves or others or show symptoms of a grave disability.
Peace officers and mental health professionals are not always on the scene when a person experiences a mental health crisis. Often family or close friends are. Therefore, it is important, especially if you are aware of your family or friend’s tenuous mental state, to be prepared to act.
Steps to Take to Care for a Family Member Experiencing Mental Crisis
If your family member is experiencing a mental crisis, there a few things you can do:
- Have the phone numbers for psychiatric emergency care and crisis hotlines readily available.
- Have a written history of your loved one’s condition, if applicable. For a first-time crisis, be prepared to provide information to emergency responders or doctors.
- If the crisis puts you or your loved one in an immediately unsafe position, call 911.
- If possible, remove from the scene any items that could be used as a weapon.
- If your loved one may hurt you, go into a locked room until emergency help arrives.
- Prepare yourself: Your loved one may be restrained or taken away for care on a gurney.
Peace officers who arrive may put your loved one under the 5150 hold. If they do not, mental health evaluators may make that determination after interacting with your loved one. Be sure to contact a mental health attorney for guidance and as a potential legal representative for your loved one.
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The Purpose of a 5150
5150 holds are intended to keep people safe, those experiencing mental distress, and those who might be harmed by the person under duress. The 72-hour hold allows doctors to evaluate the patient’s condition and determine if, after the 72-hour hold, they are fit to return to their independent lives and to society.
Why Would Someone Need a 5150?
There are three specific reasons a person would be issued a 5150 hold. Personal freedom is the right of all Californians, so taking that freedom, even temporarily, is not an action to be taken lightly and should only be used to promote the safety and health of all affected. A person can only be placed under this involuntary hold if:
- They harm or threaten to harm themselves
- They harm or threaten to harm others
- They are gravely disabled and cannot secure their own basic needs of food and clothes and shelter
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What Happens During a 5150?
The person in distress is transported by a peace officer to a mental health facility. Upon admission, the person must be informed of their rights as a patient under California Welfare and Institutions Code 5325.
Once admitted, a treatment team will perform the intake process, which involves thoroughly interviewing the patient and conducting a psychiatric evaluation. The team or doctor will complete a mental health assessment using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-5).
The goal is to keep the patient safe, get them stable, and determine the best course of treatment.
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Advocating for a Person Under a 5150 Hold
When a patient is admitted to a mental health facility, they must be immediately informed of
This advocate is not involved in their treatment. The California Department of Health Care Services (HCS) oversees facilities, conducting investigative and advocacy services.
If you or a loved one is put under a 5150 hold, you should also contact a mental health attorney in California. In some situations, a 5150 hold may have been issued in error or unnecessarily. These 72-hour holds can also lead to longer holds.
Having representation from a lawyer knowledgeable in mental health laws and experienced in navigating the mental health care system is critical to protecting your rights and your freedom.
What Happens After a 5150 Hold Ends?
If doctors determine the patient is not a danger to themselves or others and does not suffer from a grave disability, the patient will be released at the end of the 72 hours. Sometimes patients are released even earlier after evaluation.
There are additional outcomes that can follow the 5150 hold:
- The patient may sign on for continued voluntary treatment.
- If over age 18, the patient may be referred for a conservatorship.
- The facility may seek an additional 14-day involuntary hold called a “5250”.
Under a conservatorship, the person with mental illness is under the legal care of another adult. The other adult can make certain medical, financial, and other important decisions for the person under their care, as determined by the Court.
When doctors believe the patient under a 5150 hold remains a danger to themselves or others or suffers from a grave disability, they can seek a 5250 hold, keeping the patient in the facility for an additional 14 days. During this hold, patients may receive intensive treatment.
The patient has the right to a Certification Review Hearing, which must be held within four days of the 5250 notification, to fight the additional hold. A California mental health lawyer can prepare the patient for the hearing, challenge the facility’s position, and offer evidence to show the patient’s condition does not warrant this extended involuntary detainment.
Get Answers, Guidance, and Protection
Witnessing or experiencing a mental health crisis is frightening for all involved. The aftermath can be even more unsettling if any parties are confused about their rights or how the mental health care system and laws work. For help during this difficult time, speak with a mental health lawyer from Simmrin Law Group.
Your lawyer will answer your questions, give you trustworthy guidance, and ensure your rights, or the rights of your loved one, are protected.