In this article we explain admission of a disabled adult to a mental health facility by a guardian in Illinois. We answer the questions, “what is a court-appointed guardian for someone with disabilities?”, “does a guardian have the authority to admit a ward to a mental health facility?”, “how can a disabled adult be involuntarily admitted to a mental health facility by a guardian?”, and “what is considered a mental health facility in this case?”
For more on guardianship generally, check out our article: Illinois Guardianship Explained.
When an adult is no longer able to make safe, reasonable decisions, an Illinois court can appoint an individual, relative or non-relative, to serve as a legal guardian. This legal relationship removes some or all legal decision-making rights of the person with disabilities, deeming him or her legally unable to provide for his or her own physical, emotional, medical and residential needs. An incapacitated adult who has a legal guardian is oftentimes referred to as a “ward.”
A court-appointed guardian is someone who has been granted authority by a court to care for and take responsibility for making decisions for a person who is unable to care of himself or herself. A court will appoint a guardian after the potential guardian has established that he or she will act in the best interest of the ward.
While a guardian can make many medical decisions for a ward, Illinois law does not give guardians the authority to force a ward to be admitted to a mental health facility against his or her wishes. A guardian can only admit a ward to a mental health facility if the ward requests or voluntarily accepts it and if the ward has the capacity to consent. A mental health facility director or designee determines the ward’s capacity to consent, which means that the ward is able to understand the situation.
If a disabled adult is admitted to a mental health facility based on consent, he or she can request discharge at any time in writing. At this point the facility either must discharge the ward or start court proceedings to commit them.
If an adult with a disability objects to being admitted to a mental health facility, his or her legal guardian can petition for involuntary admission under the Illinois Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code.
After the guardian files the petition, a hearing will be scheduled to determine whether admission into the mental health facility is in the best interest of the disabled adult. If the judge determines that admission is in the disabled adult’s best interests, he or she will issue an order that the guardian can use to admit the disabled adult to the mental health facility against the disabled adult’s wishes.
Illinois law defines a mental health facility as any private or state-run licensed hospital, institution or facility, including clinics and health centers, that provide treatment for mental illnesses. While a guardian can place a mentally ill ward in a nursing home without the ward’s consent, the guardian cannot place a nonconsenting ward in a nursing home’s behavioral unit. This is because the court determined that the behavioral unit of a nursing home is considered a mental health facility.