A person can be committed to a hospital for care and supervision if that person is:

  1. Mentally Ill, meaning that the person has a mental, emotional, or behavioral problem which affects his or her mental health, resulting in the need for treatment or supervision. 
  2. Mentally Ill and Dangerous, meaning the person is mentally ill and that commitment to a secured facility is necessary because the person poses a danger to the public. 
  3. Intellectually Disabled, meaning a person who has not reached his full intellectual development or whose intellectual abilities have been impaired and that commitment is necessary to protect the person or society. 
  4. Chemically Dependent, meaning the person is incapable of managing himself or his affairs because of his habitual and excessive use of alcohol or drugs. Involuntary commitment Before involuntary commitment is decided upon, the petitioner will meet with someone from the Department of Human Services to discuss alternative options, such as outpatient care, halfway houses, or appointment of a guardian. However, if the circumstances of the patient do necessitate hospitalization, then he should be encouraged to admit himself voluntarily before a commitment petition is filed. A person should be hospitalized if evidence clearly shows that his own safety and well-being, or the safety of others in society, is in danger as a result of his lack of judgment or self-control. 

The commitment process:

A petition for commitment must be filed with the court by an “interested person,” such as a spouse, parent, adult child or next of kin. In order to proceed with commitment, the interested person must have a written statement by a physician stating that an examination of the patient proves him to be mentally ill, mentally ill and dangerous, mentally retarded, or chemically dependent, or a statement of the petitioner stating that after a reasonable effort, such examination could not be obtained from a physician, or could not be performed on the patient.

The information is then reviewed by an attorney from the county attorney’s office. The attorney must determine whether the facts are sufficient to prove the person is mentally ill, mentally retarded, or chemically dependent, and whether it is possible to prove that commitment is necessary. The petition is then ruled on by a judge. If determined that commitment is necessary, the person is taken to a hospital, and within 72 hours of a person being held under the court order, a “probable cause” hearing takes place. 

The hearing provides the person an opportunity to challenge whether he should continue to be held at the hospital until the commitment hearing. If at the time the petition is filed or at the “probable cause” hearing the judge determines that the person is not a likely danger to himself or others, the person will be released and ordered to appear at the commitment hearing.

The court may order the county Department of Human Services to make an investigation into the economic circumstances, family relationships, residence, social history, and background of the patient in order to make a written report to be filed with the court for the use of the head of the hospital to which the individual may be committed.

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