Involuntary admission to a mental health facility is a serious invasion to your right to control your own life. This is why there are rules about the court process to make sure that you receive a fair hearing.
In order to avoid the court proceedings, you have the right to ask that you be informally or voluntarily admitted for hospitalization. You can make this request at any time before a final order is entered in the court proceedings. Even if you make this request, the judge or facility director may reject the request if they feel that court ordered hospitalization is necessary to provide all of the services that you will need.
Place of the hearing
If you have already been admitted to a mental health facility as a result of emergency certification, the hearing will be held at that facility, if this is practical. However, you or anyone else involved are able to ask that the hearing be held somewhere else. If your home is in a different county than the facility to which your admission is sought, you can ask that the hearing be held in your home county.
Time of the hearing
The hearing is initially scheduled to be held within 5 days of the filing of the second certificate. However, you and anyone else involved have the right to ask that the hearing be postponed if more time is needed to prepare. The hearing cannot be postponed more than 15 days, except upon your request.
Public access to the hearing
In general, all court hearings are open to the public. However, the court hearings in these cases can be closed to the public, if you or anyone else involved requests it. On the other hand, the hearing must be made open to the public, if you request. If the hearing is closed to the public, then all of the court documents and transcripts are sealed.
Representation at the hearing
You are entitled to be represented by a lawyer at this hearing. If you cannot afford a lawyer, or if you are unable to hire a lawyer by the time of the hearing, the judge must appoint a lawyer to represent you. If you are unable to afford a lawyer, the judge will appoint a lawyer who is employed by the Guardianship and Advocacy Commission, if such a lawyer is available. If not, the judge may appoint a lawyer from the county Public Defender, and if none is available the judge may appoint a private attorney. The hearing may be postponed at your request in order to give your appointed lawyer time to prepare.
The judge will not allow you to represent yourself at the hearing unless you have first consulted with a lawyer. Even then, the judge will allow you to proceed without a lawyer only if the judge decides that you are able to make an informed decision about how to handle the case.
Independent psychiatric evaluation before the hearing
You are entitled to be examined by a psychiatrist or some other medical expert of your choice. This person can then submit a report to the court giving his opinion about whether you are "a person subject to involuntary admission." The state may pay for this exam if you are low-income. If you cannot find a medical expert to perform the exam, the judge can appoint an independent expert.
The judge can order you to submit to further examinations by other mental health professionals selected by the judge. If this is done, they must file a report of their findings, and you are entitled to a copy of the report.
You must personally attend the hearing, unless all of the following are true:
- Your lawyer waives this right;
- The judge determines that you are able to understand and rationally decide whether to attend the hearing; and
- The judge decides that attending the hearing could cause you serious physical or emotional harm.
If you refuse to attend the hearing, the hearing will be held without you.
- You are entitled to have the case decided by a 6 person jury, or you may choose to have the case decided by a judge.
- A transcript must be made of everything said at the hearing.
- You can be found to be "a person subject to involuntary admission" only if the judge or jury decides that there is clear and convincing evidence to support this conclusion.
The court order
If the judge or jury finds that you are "a person subject to involuntary admission," then the judge must enter a court order, called a disposition. This order indicates the type of treatment you should get and where it will be provided. The order must provide for the least drastic form of treatment that is enough for your needs.
Before the judge enters a disposition order which requires you to be hospitalized at a mental facility, the judge must consider whether it is possible to provide you with appropriate treatment in a non-institutional setting. This is called "alternative treatment."
Example: The judge could order you to attend intensive out-patient counseling, take certain medications, and require that you live in the home of a relative or in another supervised setting.
If you do not follow the court-ordered alternative treatment or if you are not getting the level of care you need, the judge can revoke the alternative treatment and require that you be admitted to a mental health facility. You are entitled to advance notice and an opportunity to respond if the judge decides to revoke an alternative treatment disposition.
If you are not satisfied with the terms of your alternative treatment, you may, at any time, file a motion in court asking the judge to change your treatment program.
Example: You could ask the judge to place you in a different alternative treatment program, place you in the custody of a different person, or admit you to a mental health facility.
How long the court order will remain in effect
The court disposition order can require you to be hospitalized or to receive alternative treatment for a period of up to 90 days. If the facility director believes that you continue to be "a person subject to involuntary admission" and need continued treatment for more than 90 days, the facility must file a new court petition and two new certificates. You will be entitled to another court hearing under the procedures explained above. The court can then authorize an additional 90 day period of involuntary treatment.
After the first two 90 days periods of involuntary treatment, the court can order 180 day periods of involuntary treatment as many times as necessary. Before each order for further treatment is entered, the facility must file a new court petition and two new certificates, and you will be entitled to another court hearing under the procedures explained above.
If the facility does not file a new petition before the period covered by the current court order expires, they must release you from care.
The treatment plan
Upon your admission, the facility must prepare your treatment plan. This plan must contain the following information:
- An assessment of your treatment needs;
- A description of the services you will receive and the goals of each type of service;
- The role of your family in implementing the plan;
- The amount of time that you will need services to meet your goals;
- The name of the person or persons who are responsible for providing the services required by the plan;
- An evaluation of your progress since you entered treatment;
- A description of your behaviors or conditions and any other reasons which the facility believes demonstrate that you continue to be in need of involuntary treatment.
If the facility director is unable to give any of the information required in the treatment plan, the facility must provide a written explanation why the information is not provided, what steps are being taken to obtain the information, and when it is expected to be available.
Within 30 days after your admission to the mental health facility, the facility director must file a copy of the treatment plan with the court. The facility must send a copy to you and your attorney, your guardian (if any), and the State's Attorney.
The purpose for preparing and distributing the treatment plan is to allow all of those involved to have a better opportunity to determine that you are receiving proper care and that you are not unnecessarily hospitalized.
Review of the treatment plan
If you believe that your treatment plan is missing all of the required information, you or anyone acting on your behalf may file a request asking the judge to review the plan. Such a request to review your treatment plan can be made 30 days after the date of your initial commitment, 90 days after the date of your initial commitment, and 90 days after the date of any extension of your period of commitment. If the judge decides that the plan is missing necessary information, he or she will order the facility to revise the plan to include the necessary information.
Court hearing to change the treatment plan
If you disagree with your treatment plan in any way, you are entitled to have a court hearing to review the plan.
- At the hearing you can ask the judge to order that you receive different or additional forms of treatment.
- You may present evidence and have witnesses testify on your behalf at the hearing.
- You can ask the judge to order that an independent examination be performed on you by a psychiatrist or some other medical expert of your choice. This person can then testify about whether he or she believes that the treatment plan is appropriate for your needs. However, the judge is not required to order that this independent examination be performed unless you convince the judge that it is not possible to properly evaluate the treatment plan without the additional information.
After a court disposition order has been entered, which requires you to be hospitalized or to enter alternative treatment, there are two different ways that you can be discharged. First, a court can order that you be discharged. Second, you can be discharged by the facility director at any time that he or she determines that you no longer require care.
Discharge By Court Order
- You may file a petition for discharge at any time.
- You may file the petition in the county where you now live.
- The petition must explain in detail when and why the initial disposition order was entered, and the reasons why you believe you are now entitled to be discharged.
- You are entitled to have a court hearing within 5 days after the filing of your petition, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. The same rules described above which apply to court hearings to have you admitted also apply to court proceedings for discharge.
- You have the right to be represented, to have an independent evaluation, and to have a trial by jury.
If the judge or jury finds that you are no longer "a person subject to involuntary admission," then the facility must release you from hospitalization or alternative treatment. If you have a legal guardian, the judge also has the authority to end the guardianship if he or she finds that you no longer need a guardian.
If the judge or jury finds that you continue to be "a person subject to involuntary admission," then the judge can require you to remain hospitalized, or the judge can require changes in your treatment plan, or can require you to enter a different form of alternative treatment.
Discharge by Facility Director
- The director of the mental health facility or alternative care program may discharge you from treatment at any time that he or she determines that you are no longer "a person subject to involuntary admission."
- If the director believes that you could still benefit from treatment, the director must inform you of your right to remain in treatment as an informal or voluntary recipient of care.
- The facility director must give you written notice of any decision to discharge you, at least 7 days in advance.
- The director also must give notice to your lawyer, your guardian if any, and your parents if you are under 18.
If the facility director decides to discharge you, he or she may notify the State's Attorney of the county where you lived before your admission and of the county where the court hearings were held. Those state's attorneys may take legal action to seek your continued hospitalization if they disagree with the facility director's decision to discharge you
Updated: February 2018