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Mental Health: Involuntary Commitments in Illinois

Posted by CTM Legal Group | Dec 12, 2023 | 0 Comments

By Attorney Bradley Fuller

Mental illness is an issue that touches all our lives. Many Illinois families will face the stress and confusion of dealing with a loved one who is experiencing a mental health crisis. We can hope that our struggling friends and family members will engage in treatment voluntarily. Unfortunately, many people who are undergoing a significant mental health episode are unable or simply unwilling to seek out the professional treatment that they so desperately need. In these cases when the circumstances become so severe that the unwell individual is in real danger of harming themselves or someone else, involuntary commitment to a proper mental health facility is necessary.

Though it is not openly discussed, mental health episodes are quite common. All persons should have a plan to deal with these destressing and uncertain occurrences. First and foremost, when confronted with an emergency related to a mental health issue, always dial 911. Afterwards, when a psychiatrist begins to evaluate the person experiencing the mental health issue, that person's family or friends should contact competent legal counsel, a crucial step in best resolving these matters.

Having someone admitted to a mental health ward without their consent is a serious matter involving fundamental rights and freedoms. Accordingly, there are strict laws and legal procedures that must be followed rigorously throughout the process of involuntary mental health treatment. Nevertheless, anyone over the age of 18 may file a petition for the immediate hospitalization of someone that is suffering from a severe and dangerous mental health condition. The individual suffering such a mental health episode is referred to as the “Respondent.”

The petition must specifically describe the nature of the respondent's mental health disorder as well as the facts and circumstances which would lead a reasonably prudent person to believe that the respondent presents an immediate danger to themselves or someone else. These petitions must be filed in the jurisdiction where the respondent resides.  A neutral magistrate or judge will review the petition and determine whether the local authorities should take the respondent into custody and transport them to an appropriate treatment facility pending further examination by relevant mental health professionals. When possible, it is always best for one to consult with legal counsel before filing a legal pleading of any kind, especially a petition for involuntary commitment to a mental health hospital.

Often, emergency responders, such as police officers or medical technicians, submit individuals for potential involuntary commitment. The examining mental health professionals will only certify a respondent for involuntary commitment if one of the following requirements is met:

  1. The respondent's mental illness places the respondent or another in a reasonable expectation of harm;
  2. The respondent, due to mental illness, is unable to provide for his or her basic needs; or
  3. The respondent, due to severe mental illness, is unable to even recognize their own necessity for mental health treatment.

Once a person has been admitted to treatment on an emergency basis, they will be continually evaluated by licensed medical professionals. Throughout the course of their evaluation, the admitted respondent has the right to appear before a judge to challenge or review the status of their commitment.

If you or a loved one has been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility, it is imperative that you contact competent legal counsel to assert and protect your rights. The attorneys at CTM Legal Group have the training, education, experience, and compassion to answer your questions, explain your options, and expertly guide you through these difficult times. 

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