Involuntary hospitalization is a legal procedure that compels people to receive treatment. It can treat a mental health disorder, neurobiological disorder, substance abuse or any combination of these problems.
One of the primary reasons people object to involuntary hospitalization is because the courts force people to be hospitalized against their will. In fact, there is no nationwide standard for involuntary hospitalization, and only 38 states have some form of ruling for this practice. The states that do impose involuntary hospitalization do so because they believe that a person is one of the following problems:
This is a controversial ruling and is often used as a last resort to deal with someone who is so ill that she cannot use proper judgment and refuses treatment.
To have someone hospitalized involuntarily, most states require that a person who wants to initiate such an action call 911 or the local police station. The police individually interview the candidate, as well as the person who initiated the call. The officers may also interview other family members, neighbors, bystanders or others who know the affected person or have witnessed his behavior.
After comparing their individual evaluations, the police officers make a decision from one of the following criteria:
The decision is most often based on whether the officers believe the person is attempting to harm herself or someone else. Most states require that the person who is involuntarily hospitalized be given a hearing within 72 hours of hospitalization, and in front of a judge who specializes in mental health law. The judge can order the person released if he thinks the person is not dangerous.
The benefits of involuntary hospitalization are also a controversial topic. Some people believe that treatment without a person’s consent is preferable to the continued worsening of a problem, whether it is a mental health issue or substance abuse. Other people believe that a person’s liberties are being violated in exchange for public safety.
The level and types of services provided through involuntary hospitalization is yet another area of controversy. Some people believe that each person’s situation should be individually evaluated and the proper course of action is determined based on that evaluation. For example, a person that steals property to support a drug habit may not require involuntary hospitalization, but rather be best served through an outpatient treatment program. Others believe that if a person is involuntarily hospitalized that she is not capable of making a decision to do so. Still others see involuntary hospitalization as a way to prevent a downward spiral that may leave to jail, homelessness or death.
Just about every aspect of involuntary hospitalization is controversial, so you need to learn as much about it as possible before using this option. Call us any time at our toll-free, 24 hour helpline so we can share more information with you about involuntary hospitalization.