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Involuntary Commitment

A person who is a danger to self or others can, under certain conditions, be court ordered to a mental hospital. Most states allow commitment to public and private mental hospitals, either as a voluntary patient accepted by the institution or under a court order of involuntary commitment. Legal standards surround the process by which those who are mentally ill can be forced to receive treatment. State laws and rules regarding involuntary commitment are subject to the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees the right to be free from governmental restraint and the right not to be confined unnecessarily.

If a guardian or person is not agreeable to a voluntary commitment, state law provisions typically provide a procedure for emergency involuntary hospitalization. In the event of a voluntary hospitalization, a person, or that person’s court-ordered guardian, requests admission to the hospital. The hospital can retain the patient indefinitely or discharge the patient provided the staff determines discharge is in the best interest of the patient and the community. In many states, a patient on a voluntary admission who wishes to leave must give the institution three days notice. This gives the hospital the opportunity to apply for involuntary commitment of the patient, if the staff determines that is appropriate. The facility will then typically retain the patient until the court hearing.

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