Civil Commitment for Treatment of Psychiatric Disability
People with psychiatric disabilities who are at serious risk for hurting themselves or others or who are gravely disabled may be committed to a hospital without their consent. A gravely disabled person is someone who could be seriously hurt by the inability to address basic human needs such as food, clothing, shelter, safety and medical treatment.
The commitment process begins when someone petitions the Probate Court alleging that a person has a psychiatric disability and is dangerous or gravely disabled. The court appoints an attorney for the person, two doctors examine him or her and a hearing is held within 10 days.
Sometimes, a commitment is authorized without a prior hearing. The Probate Courts, police and some medical personnel may order someone to be examined in a hospital. The doctor may determine that the person meets the commitment requirements and needs immediate care. The person may be hospitalized for 15 days and possibly longer if proceedings are begun in the Probate Court.
An involuntary commitment lasts until the psychiatric disability is properly treated and the patient is discharged.
Substance Abuse Commitments
A relative, conservator or other concerned person may petition the Probate Court to require a person with a substance abuse disorder to get treatment. The court will hold a hearing and listen to the evidence about the person's condition, including testimony from the person and health professionals. The judge will determine if the person should be involuntarily placed in an inpatient treatment center based on the evidence presented.
Involuntary Medication and Treatment
Involuntary medication and treatment is permitted when a person is hospitalized for psychiatric disability. Psychiatric hospitals may ask the Probate Courts for permission to medicate a patient who is incapable of giving informed consent or refuses the medication.
When a patient is incapable of giving informed consent, the Probate Court may appoint a conservator to decide the matter for the patient.
When a patient is capable of giving informed consent and refuses medication, the court may order its administration if there is no less intrusive treatment and if, without the medication, the psychiatric disability would place the patient or others in direct threat of harm.
Hospitals may also seek permission to peform electroconvulsive therapy or ECT on a patient. A judge will hear testimony from the patient and health professionals and determine if treatment should be administered.
Restoration of Firearm Rights
When a Probate Court finds a person to be mentally incompetent, he or she may not buy, sell, own or possess a firearm, and his or her name is listed with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. A person who has recovered from a psychiatric disability may ask the Probate Court to reinstate his or her firearm rights.