If you have a loved one who is suffering from a mental health challenge or disorder it may be the case that he or she is unable to understand how bad their illness is. On top of that, your loved one may not have the understanding to be able to determine that he or she needs outside help when it comes to caring for themselves at this moment. In a situation like that it may be up to you and other family members to try and help your loved one. What you need to be aware of, however, is that there may be limitations to the help that you can provide.
One of the most challenging aspects of this entire discussion is that you may not be able to provide all the help that your loved one needs when it comes to their mental health. After all, this is understandable. While you may have a big heart for your loved one and want nothing more than to care for him or her the best that you can the simple truth is that you are not a mental health professional. You may have experience helping your loved one but that does not mean that you are adept at diagnosing conditions, helping your loved one in a crisis, or dealing with any of the other challenges associated with a mental health condition. In short, you need help but may not know where to find that help.
One of the options that could be considered by you and your family is to find out more about having your loved one temporarily committed to a mental institution. There are certain connotations and assumptions made when it comes to mental institutions. Most of those are negative. However, these mental health facilities exist for a reason. As a last resort when no other remedies have been effective, you and your family can work together to see if this option is one that you should pursue in the long term.
However, if your loved one will not agree to being admitted to one of these facilities then you need to determine what your options are as far as having him or her involuntarily committed. In Texas, there are laws related to involuntary commitment. This means that you and your family could utilize specific legal means to have your loved one committed to a mental hospital or the psychiatric ward of a traditional hospital against his or her will. Again, this is probably something that we are familiar with either with first-hand experience or based on the scene from a television show or movie. It is much less entertaining, however, to be going through this type of circumstance in your personal life versus seeing it play out on the big screen.
Without a doubt, even if you understand the process of involuntary commitment perfectly it is still a challenge to be able to go through the steps that are part of the process. Much of the reason for this is that it is a challenge emotionally to deal with everything that comes with involuntary commitment. It goes against our nature as human beings to force an adult to do something against their will. This is especially true when it means limiting that person’s autonomy and freedom to do certain things on their own. Involuntary commitment is no joke when it comes to what the person goes through and the extent to which the mental health providers are going to work with that person to try and help him or her. As a result, you and your family need to feel confident that this is what is in your loved one’s best interests.
Bear in mind, that even if you are having some second thoughts or doubts about the commitment taking this step can be something that helps save the life of your loved one. Even if he or she has never gone through a mental health crisis before you have no idea how close he or she is to suffering a mental breakdown and then potentially taking some sort of action that could harm themselves or another person. For that reason, you need to not only be confident that what you are trying to do is the right thing, but you need to be aware of what is going on in the life of your loved one.
If you are a concerned relative of a family member going through a mental health issue, then you need to seriously think about how close you are to him or her. The closer your relationship with that person not only will he or she trust you more, but you will have more first-hand knowledge about the problems in that person’s life. Making recommendations about involuntary commitment can be difficult when you are living in a different state and only hearing about the problems with your relative second hand. As a result, if you can spend time with your relative then you may find out that the need for an involuntary commitment has been overblown or are not necessary. On the other hand, there are legitimate reasons to consider an involuntary commitment and that is what we are going to be discussing in today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan.
One other point that I think is worth making regarding an involuntary commitment is that just because you are considering having your relative placed in a mental institution against their will does not mean that you are giving up on that person. On the contrary, it is much easier for you to sit idly by and watch your relatives struggle with their mental health from the comfort of your own home. Seeing your loved one recede into the background of your home life and become a shell of who he or she once was it’s easier. It is much more challenging for you 2 listen to your heart and do what you think is best for him or her.
When you find yourself in a position where you believe your family should consider committing a loved one to a mental institution, even against their will, then today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan is for you. Along with the process of involuntary commitment, the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are here to help you learn more about how the guardianship process works. To become a guardian of an adult you would need to petition the court, have a hearing, and complete the necessary paperwork to explain to a judge why you believe that your loved one needs a guardian. The website for the Law Office of Bryan Fagan has a devoted page to guardianship matters where we provide you with paperwork, forms, and other information that can be helpful to you during this time of uncertainty.
Additionally, if you have questions about the material contained in today’s blog post then please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our lead estate planning and guardianship attorney, Megone Trewick has the experience, knowledge, and compassion that you need when dealing with a subject matter as serious as a loved one suffering from a mental impairment. We place our clients first and always seek to provide guidance based on the best interests of our clients. Do not assume that an issue will be resolved on its own or without further action. It may be that you are all that standing in between your loved one and a life of uncertainty and discomfort. Talk to one of our attorneys today at no charge to learn more about how you can better serve your family through a guardianship proceeding.
What do you need to know about involuntary commitments?
When you begin to consider an involuntary commitment of a loved one the first thing for you to consider is that he or she likely has more resources available in your community than you would believe at first glance. Even if your loved one has no income or insurance there are likely free clinics, charitable organizations, mental health facilities, and other resources in the community that will be willing to treat your loved one at either a reduced cost or for free. This is to say nothing of religious organizations that have individuals on various councils and bodies within the church who would be willing to talk with your loved one at no charge. Therefore, if these are not resources that you have investigated extensively then you should certainly do so before you consider an involuntary commitment.
However, there may also be situations where it has become clear that your loved one is unable to care for themselves. Not bathing for extended periods, eating sporadically, gaining, or losing weight due to choices when it comes to diet and activity as well as making threats of harming themselves are all examples of situations where an involuntary commitment may become necessary. We say necessary because it has become clear that your loved one’s health and well-being are at stake. It is no longer a matter of him or her being comfortable or your family thinking that you can handle matters within the home. When you find yourself in this position it becomes clear that additional resources need to be expended towards helping your loved one.
How can you begin the process of involuntary commitment?
In Texas, something called a mental health warrant must be issued to begin the involuntary commitment process. What this warrant does is it allows others to be aware that a Magistrate Judge has ordered an emergency apprehension and then detention of your loved one. Therefore, you or someone else would need to apply to a judge who has the jurisdiction authority to issue this order for emergency apprehension. The warrant does not guarantee that, and apprehension will occur or that your loved one will be admitted to hospital care. However, what it does guarantee is that your loved one will be evaluated to determine what the least restrictive type of care that he or she could receive would be.
When you feel it is time, you should contact a county clerk for your home county or the justice of the peace office. Many Texas counties, specifically the larger ones, have offices where an application for this warrant can be filed. You can search for this information online or you can contact your county clerk and speak to an operator. Different types of paperwork may need to be filed depending on your location and the requirements of your county. Once the application for a warrant has been completed it would be submitted to the appropriate judge. What the drug has to find to approve the application is that there is a reasonable cause to believe that your loved one evidences or possesses a mental illness and that as a result he or she poses A substantial risk of serious harm to himself or other people.
What this should tell you is that because the judge has no idea who you are loved one is, it will be important for you to be as specific as possible in your application as to the reasons why an involuntary commitment is necessary. There are certain methods that you can choose to employ in this regard. Working with inexperienced guardianship attorneys, such as those with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, can give you a tremendous advantage when completing paperwork. Remember, if you cannot even get your foot in the door in this way then the rest of the process will be a moot point.
An emergency is what you are trying to justify to the court. Because it is an emergency you are asking the court for emergency measures to be taken as far as restraining your loved one against their will. If a judge believes that such an emergency exists, then your application will be approved and a warrant will be issued. Law enforcement will be notified of the circumstances and will then be dispatched to apprehend your loved one. Once your loved one is in the custody of law enforcement transportation will be provided to a local mental facility.
What happens once your loved one is in a mental facility?
Once your loved one has been picked up by law enforcement and taken to a mental health facility a doctor would provide what is known as a medical certificate within one day of him or her being admitted. The certificate allows a court to establish whether a judge must issue an order of protective custody. This order will be issued by a probate court judge after a court application ordered for mental health services is filed. Keep in mind that at least one physician certificate must be on file with the court if an order of protective custody will be issued. The certificate would need to contain sufficient facts for a court to believe that your loved one is mentally ill and is likely to cause serious harm to themselves or others.
The due process involved in this situation does not end there. Once the order of protective custody is issued a hearing would need to be held within 72 hours. This hearing would determine whether your loved one will be held at a mental institution or released. However, there would still be a mental health hearing that would be held and your loved one would only be released for as long as you all would be waiting for this hearing to occur. Typically, this hearing must occur within two weeks of him or her being detained.
At a mental health hearing, testimony could be taken from you or any other family member who applied for the warrant, doctors, treating providers, and your loved one him or herself. A judge can decide to dismiss the case in your application, order outpatient treatment or order your loved one to undergo inpatient psychiatric care at a mental institution. Keep in mind that these hearings are usually held at the mental institution where your loved one is staying.
With so many moving pieces to this application process and with so much at stake, having experienced attorneys by your side to help guide you through the process is incredibly important. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan not only understand the involuntary commitment process but also each step that you will encounter along the way. With an eye for detail and empathy towards you and your family situation, we are best equipped to help you manage this process and above all else do what is best for your loved one and your family.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today’sblog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed guardianship attorneys offer free-of-charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas guardianship law as well as how your family’s circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a guardianship or probate case.