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Kevin O'Flaherty

In this article, we explain the process for involuntary emergency commitment to a mental health facility in Illinois

Emergency involuntary commitment is a process whereby a mentally ill individual may be temporarily admitted to a mental health facility against their will in order to prevent imminent danger to themselves or others.

How to Admit Someone to a Mental Health Facility Against Their Will in Illinois

If an individual's mental condition poses an immediate risk of harm, anyone over the age of 18 can file a petition for immediate hospitalization of that individual in the circuit court located in the county in which the individual resides.

The petition must describe the respondent's mental illness and any actions that the respondent has taken that indicate that their mental illness would place the respondent or others in imminent physical harm were they not admitted to a mental health facility. The petition must be accompanied by certificates from two clinicians that have examined the respondent (more on this below).

How to Prepare a Petition to Involuntarily Commit to a Mental Health Facility

The petition must also include the names and addresses of the following individuals:

  • The respondent's family members;
  • The respondent's guardian, if one exists;
  • Anyone with substitute decision-making authority over the respondent;
  • Any witnesses to the facts alleged in the petition (phone numbers for the witnesses must be included as well); and
  • The names, badge numbers, and employing entity of any police officers that assisted in transporting the respondent to the mental health facility.

The petitioner must disclose the following information in the petition:

  • Their relationship to the respondent; 
  • Any legal or financial interest with respect to the respondent; and
  • Any litigation between the petitioner and the respondent.

If the petitioner does not have any relationship or legal or financial interest concerning the respondent, they must explain in the petition why the petition can't be filed by someone else who has such interests.

Once the petition is filed with the court, the petitioner can deliver it to the County Sheriff or the Illinois Department of Human Services, depending on the county. The sheriff will then take the disabled adult into custody and transport them to a mental health facility. The disabled adult is responsible for the payment of transportation costs.

Rights of a Disabled Adult Who Has Been Involuntarily Committed to a Mental Health Facility

Within 12 hours of the disabled adult being admitted into a mental health facility, they must be served with a copy of the petition along with a statement of rights. The petition must be sent to the disabled adult's attorney and guardian within 24 hours of admission. The disabled adult has the right to make two phone calls.

Clinician Certificates for Involuntary Commitment to a Mental Health Facility

For a disabled adult to be involuntarily committed to a mental health facility, they must be examined by two clinicians, who must sign certificates stating that it is appropriate to commit the disabled adult involuntarily.

A physician, psychiatrist, qualified examiner, or clinical psychologist must complete the first certificate within 72 hours before commitment and include it with the petition. A psychiatrist must complete the second certificate within 24 hours of the disabled adult's admission to the facility. If the second certificate is not completed within 24 hours of commitment, the mental health facility is required to release the disabled adult.

A disabled adult may be detained without obtaining a prior clinician's certificate if the petitioner believes, based on personal observation, that the disabled adult meets the criteria for involuntary admission and a diligent effort was made to obtain an examination.

What Happens After a Petition for Involuntary Commitment is Filed?

If the petition has not been filed before the disabled adult's admission to the mental health facility, it must be filed within 24 hours of admission, excluding holidays and weekends. The second certificate must be filed promptly after it is obtained. The court must schedule a hearing within five business days of receiving the petition and first certificate.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.


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