Monday, June 22, 2015

Involuntary Mental Health Commitment in Texas

If someone is considering suicide, may harm him/herself or others, is unable to make a rational decision about care, is suffering severe distress, or is deteriorating significantly, an involuntary mental health commitment may take place.

The first responders to such a situation may be local law enforcement, a crisis intervention team (in counties where these teams are available), or a responder from Adult Protective Services.  Health care professionals may play a role in initiating the investigation into the person's circumstances. Friends, family or neighbors may also initiate a check into the circumstances or welfare of the person involved. Any adult may apply for emergency detention of a person who needs help.

In some cases, the person who needs help may be found to be living in unsafe and unsanitary conditions because they are mentally unable to make rational decisions or follow through with self-care. 

The goal of the involuntary mental health commitment is to see that the person does not harm him/herself, is properly evaluated, and has access to needed medications.

Within 72 hours of being detained, the patient has the right to a probable cause hearing.  At that hearing, the evidence will be considered by a judge, magistrate, or justice of the peace.  A medical certificate will be sworn to by a physician and other evidence will be considered. An attorney ad litem will be appointed to represent the patient and guard his/her rights. 

A final hearing will occur within 30 days of the initial commitment.  A determination will be made as to whether temporary (90 days) mental health services are warranted. 

This information pertains to initial involuntary civil commitment (versus criminal competency hearings) in the State of Texas.  Title 7, Subtitle C of the Texas Health & Safety Code contains the law relating to involuntary commitment.

If you are concerned about someone who is in a crisis situation and want to know more about Texas laws and procedures or you want to help make a difference, check out Treatment Advocacy Center.

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