In 1982, Kentucky passed the Kentucky Mental Health Hospitalization Act to address the sensitive issue of involuntary hospitalization. Involuntary hospitalization refers to the admittance of an individual to a hospital or psychiatric care facility against his or her will.
An individual suffering from mental illness can be involuntarily hospitalized if:
- He or she presents a danger or threat of danger to self, family or others resulting from mental illness; AND
- He or she can reasonably benefit from treatment; AND
- Hospitalization is the least restrictive means of treatment presently available.
A person is considered “mentally ill
” if he or she has serious problems with self-control, judgment or discretion in their personal affairs and social relations due to physiological, psychological or social factors.
” means actual or the threat of serious physical harm to self, family, or others. This includes any action that deprives self, family or others of the basic necessities (i.e. food, shelter, or clothing).
“Least restrictive means
” indicates that the required treatment will provide a realistic opportunity to improve the mentally ill person’s level of functioning in the least confining setting possible under the circumstances.
Initiated when a qualified medical professional, police officer, County or Commonwealth Attorney, spouse, relative, friend, guardian or other interested person files a petition for involuntary hospitalization of a mentally ill individual.
- An individual subject to temporary commitment is entitled to a hearing.
- The court will determine if probable cause exists to order involuntary hospitalization.
- Officer may immediately transport an individual believed to be mentally ill that presents a threat to self, family or others to a hospital or psychiatric facility.
- Individual must be evaluated within 18 hours of detention to determine whether involuntary hospitalization is necessary.
STEPS OF THE INVOLUNTARY HOSPITALIZATION HEARING PROCESS
- Initiated by an authorized staff physician or health care provider.
- Involves admitting a mentally-ill individual, already present in a hospital, into a psychiatric care facility.
- The individual must not be held for longer than 72 hours.
- A petition for involuntary hospitalization must be filed by a family member or other concerned individual in the District Court of the county where the person to be hospitalized lives or is present at the time of filing.
- The District Court of the county must set a preliminary hearing date within six (6) days of holding or examination.
- Notice of the involuntary hospitalization hearing must be given to the mentally ill individual and, if applicable, to the individual’s guardian, spouse, parents, nearest relative or friend, if known.
- The District Court will examine the person filing the petition [“petitioner”] under oath about why he or she believe it is necessary to involuntarily hospitalize the mentally ill individual.
- If the Court finds probable cause to involuntarily hospitalize the mentally ill individual, the court will order the person to a facility and set a final hearing within twenty-one (21) days from the examination in the county where the individual is hospitalized.
- After the final hearing, the court can involuntarily hospitalize the individual for a period of sixty (60) to three hundred sixty (360) consecutive days from date of the court order, depending on what was requested in the petition.
If the court finds that no probable cause exists to involuntarily hospitalize, the proceedings must be dismissed and the individual will be released.
There are no absolutes or predictability on who will be admitted. “Imminent danger” can be subjective and dependent on the mental health provider’s judgment. In addition, individuals may present in control of their self and deny allegations during an evaluation. This makes it difficult to obtain an accurate assessment.
Being declined for admission and treatment can be very disheartening to family members. This leaves them feeling helpless when their family member desperately needs treatment. The system and the laws focus on civil rights and not the hardship of the family or individual. If the individual is denied admission and risk remains, one is advised to file a petition again. When mental health professionals see a history of petitions this may influence a future assessment.