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Can a Mentally Ill Loved One be Forced into Treatment?

Brazil Clark, PLLC Aug. 17, 2022

Anyone who’s dealt with mental illness personally or with a loved one knows what a long and difficult road it can be. Oftentimes, there is no cure, and the best we can hope for is to simply manage the condition and move through life the best we can. However, there are times when someone’s mental illness can become so disruptive and severe, but the person who’s suffering from the illness does not want to seek treatment. In these cases, you may wonder about your options for helping them get into involuntary treatment. These are extremely hard situations to be in, and the laws surrounding forcing a mentally ill loved one to get treatment are complex. For help with this, call Brazil Clark, PLLC, to speak with an experienced attorney about your options. Attorney Frank Brazil can serve clients in Nashville, Tennessee, and throughout Rutherford County.

Involuntary Civil Commitment

One way of helping a loved one get treatment for a mental illness against their will is to seek involuntary civil commitment. This is a process where a judge can order a person with serious mental illness to either inpatient or outpatient treatment against their will. Though, this process can be completed in just a few days, there are specific requirements that must be met, and the patient will have to be seen by a licensed clinician or law enforcement officer. The courts will remain involved to ensure that all laws are being followed and the rights and needs of the patient are always considered first and foremost. The goal of involuntary commitment is to put the patient in the least restrictive environment that still meets their needs to avoid unnecessary distress. 

Requirements for Having Someone Committed

The main requirement for having someone with mental illness committed against their will is that they are a clear danger either to themselves or to others. Additionally, if the person is unable to provide for their own basic needs or safety, they may be committed. When a judge reviews the case, they may also look at the medical history of the individual to make a decision about commitment. For example, if the patient has been diagnosed with a severe mental illness like schizophrenia or manic depression and has been hospitalized for this condition two or more times in the recent past, they may find that there is a high enough likelihood they will soon become a danger. In this case, a judge would be able to commit them to a hospital. 

The Process of Getting Someone Involuntarily Committed 

If you wish to have someone involuntarily committed to treatment, there’s a specific process you must go through. Because this is a very serious undertaking, you must work with an attorney who can ensure you’re following all legal regulations. 

First, you will have to seek something called emergency detention. This means that either a doctor, psychologist, officer of the law, or a certified crisis worker takes the patient into custody to evaluate their mental state to see if they meet the criteria for commitment. Next, a mental health exam will be performed, and the clinician will fill out a Certificate of Need (CON) if the person is deemed to be a high enough risk to need emergency commitment. Once the first CON has been completed, the patient will then be sent for a second evaluation by a senior clinician. If they too feel the patient is at risk, they will complete another COD and the patient can then be admitted to a hospital against their will for up to five business days.

Within 24 hours after the patient has been admitted, the courts will be notified, and a probable cause hearing will be scheduled. During the hearing, the court may determine that the patient can be admitted for up to 15 days in a hospital for further evaluation and treatment. During the 15 days, another hearing may be held to determine if the patient should be released or recommited for a longer period of time. 

How Your Attorney Can Help

During this process, it’s essential you have an experienced conservator attorney working on your side. This is especially important when your probable cause hearing begins, but many families find consulting with an attorney both before and after this process to be helpful. By law, the patient has a right to a lawyer, either appointed to them by the state or hired privately. This will be a challenging time for the family of the patient, and it can be very useful to have a clear and steady advocate during the entire process. 

Don’t Face These Challenges Alone

If you’re in the Nashville, Tennessee, area and are concerned about a loved one who has a mental illness and may need to be involuntarily committed to treatment, reach out to the attorneys at Brazil Clark, PLLC for compassionate and professional legal assistance.