When Worst Comes to Worst: Involuntary Commitment in Arkansas

MentalHealthYou don’t have to look hard to see that mental illness is all around us. It has affected me, and people that I love.  Roughly 1 in 5 adults in the U.S., or 43.7 million people, experience mental illness is any given year. More seriously, 1 in 25 adults experience a serious mental illness in that same time frame that interferes with one or more major life activities. That’s a lot of people, folks. Chances are it has affected you in some way.

You may find yourself at some point trying to help someone with a mental illness that doesn’t want your help. There are a lot of great resources out there. But if you suddenly realize that the person you care about is a danger to themselves or others, it’s time to act. You may want to consider involuntary commitment.

The Basics

If a person is a clear and present danger to himself or others as a result of a mental illness, disease or disorder, that person is a candidate for involuntary commitment.

The purpose of an involuntary commitment is to have the person evaluated and treated, regardless of whether they agree to it or not.

Preferably with the help of an attorney, you can file a petition, get a hearing, and treatment can be ordered by the court.

The Petition

Anyone who has witnessed the person’s dangerous behavior can file a petition. The petitioner must allege facts in the petition, known to him or her personally, that establish that the person is a clear and present danger to others as a result of a mental illness. They should also include the names and contact information for other people who have witnessed such behavior. The petition should be filed in the county where the person being committed resides. Often, the prosecuting attorney’s office will help the petitioner file and will represent the petitioner at the hearing.

The Hearing

If you are asking the court for an emergency detention, then you have to request an immediate detention in your petition and ask for an emergency ex parte hearing. If you are asking for an emergency detention, then there will be a hearing with the judge at his or her first opportunity to determine if there is reasonable cause to believe that the person meets the criteria for involuntary admission. If they do, then the judge will order them to be immediately transported to an appropriate mental health facility (usually the state hospital) and there will be a 72-hour hold for an evaluation by a physician.

In any case, a formal hearing will be held usually within 3 business days of the filing of the petition (if not an emergency) or within 3 business days after the 72-hour hold (if it was an emergency). The petitioner and any other witnesses will need to be present to give testimony regarding why the petition was filed and what facts they witnessed establishing that the person is a clear and present danger due to their mental illness.

The Result

If the court determines that there is a clear and convincing evidence regarding the same, the judge will order the person to be committed for an initial treatment period of up to 45 days. Thereafter, 45-day periods of admission may be obtained to extend the person’s treatment.

My Two Cents

The person you are helping may not realize for a long time, if ever, that you are trying to help them. Caring about a person with mental illness can be tough. The National Alliance for Mental Illness holds support groups around Arkansas for friends and family of those suffering form mental disease. Click here to find a support group near you.

If you would like to talk to an attorney about your options, contact Leslie for a free consultation.



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