California Laws On Committment To A Mental Health Facility

There are a few things that can really be done to have a person dedicated into a mental health facility in the state of California. If the person wants to commit him or her self, he or she can call or take them to the psychiatric ward of a local hospital for an evaluation and instructions on the next step to take. In order to commit a person to mental health involuntarily, one need to contact the local 24-Hour Multilingual Crisis Intervention and Assessment number or psychiatric hospital for advice and steps to take. Beginning to the recent year the California counties can adopt legislation that supporters hope will put an end to the "revolving door" phenomenon for people with serious mental illness.

California Government Gray Davis signed legislation in September to permit county mental health department officials to order outpatient treatment for people suffering from serious mental illness that cannot take care of themselves or are likely to harm themselves or others. The Government legislation, which goes into effect on January 1, 2003, for a five-year period, will be enacted on a county-by-county basis dependent on whether each county is able to offer services required by the measure. The new law on commitment to a mental health facility gives courts an additional, less-restrictive option for helping seriously mentally ill people. The current law on mental health governing commitment, called the Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) Act, provides only for inpatient commitment and stipulates that individuals can be involuntarily hospitalized only if they pose an immediate danger to themselves or others or are judged by the court to be "gravely disabled," a legal term meaning they do not have the ability to care for themselves.

The laws on commitment give physicians a 72-hour period to evaluate such individuals and begin treatment. Efforts of the government have long been under way in California to reform the Lanterman-Petris-Short law. Opponents of Lanterman-Petris-Short have noted that, as written, the meaning of danger is subject to a vast degree of interpretation by law enforcement officers or health professionals who commit people with mental illness to involuntary treatment. However, some of the people are committed on mental health only after they have attempted suicide or physically injured another. Those people who fought to reform the Lanterman-Petris-Short law maintained that court-ordered treatment fell under the category of too little, too late. The new government legislation would trigger the Outpatient Treatment Demonstration Act of 2002 under which a community-based, multidisciplinary treatment team can provide intensive outpatient treatment to people with serious mental illness for a 180-day period.

The mental health law includes a clause that requires participating counties to provide data to the California Department of Mental Health on a number of variables. They formally include but are not limited to the number of clients receiving the court-ordered outpatient treatment who have contacts with local law enforcement, the number involved in employment services programs, the number abusing substances, and the hospitalization days that have been reduced or avoided for persons in the program. If the state can show that the mental health treatment program of the outpatient is reducing hospitalization days and contacts with law enforcement, for instance, the legislation is likely to be extended past 2008, according to supporters of the measure.