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Kevin O'Flaherty

In Illinois, a person can be involuntarily admitted to a mental health facility either through a court-ordered petition or emergency certification by local authorities when they pose an immediate risk to themselves or others.

In Illinois, navigating the complexities of involuntarily committing someone to a mental health facility involves understanding specific legal criteria and steps. This article serves as a comprehensive guide spotlighting the roles of healthcare professionals, the legal framework, and the protection of rights throughout the journey. We delve into the prerequisites for involuntary admission, including court-ordered and emergency admissions, while also exploring the provisions for outpatient treatment and the significance of Mental Health Care Power of Attorney.

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

There are usually two ways a person with mental illness is involuntarily admitted to a mental health facility in Illinois: 

1.) Admission by court order: An Illinois judge can force an individual to be admitted to a mental health facility against his or her will. Any person over the age of 18 can file a petition for immediate hospitalization of a person with the mental illness. The petition describes the mental illness and the specific actions the respondent has taken to indicate the risk of immediate physical harm if he or she is not admitted to a mental health facility. The petition has to be filed in the circuit court of the county where the person with the mental illness, also referred to as the “respondent,” currently resides. The person with the mental illness is called the “respondent,” because he or she is responding to the petition. Once a judge approves, local authorities are alerted to escort the respondent to a mental health facility for treatment. 

2.) Emergency admission by certification: In a true emergency situation, an individual may be admitted to a mental health facility against his or her will; however, if the person with mental illness proposes immediate harm to himself or herself or others, a court order is not necessary. If local authorities are contacted first due to immediate danger, they can escort the respondent to a mental health facility for treatment. Once the patient is out of immediate danger, the police can take it upon themselves to initiate the petition filing process with a quick certification. 

For more information on emergency involuntary admission, visit our other article, Emergency Involuntary Commitment to a Mental Health Facility in Illinois.

When Can a Person Be Involuntarily Committed to a Mental Health Facility in Illinois?

Proof of mental illness alone is not enough to involuntarily admit a person with mental illness to a mental health facility. For inpatient treatment, a person with mental illness can only be involuntarily committed under any of these three circumstances: 

  • Because of his or her illness, this person is reasonably expected, unless treated on an inpatient basis, to engage in conduct placing such person or another in physical harm or in reasonable expectation of being physically harmed. 
  • Because of his or her illness, this person is unable to provide for his or her basic physical needs so as to guard him or herself from serious harm without assistance of family or others, unless treated on an inpatient basis. 
  • Because of the nature of his or her illness, this person who refuses treatment or is not adhering adequately to prescribed treatment is unable to understand his or her need for treatment, unless treated on an inpatient basis. 

For outpatient treatment, a person with mental illness can only be involuntarily committed under any of these two circumstances:

  • In the absence of outpatient treatment, the person with mental illness has to meet the above criteria for inpatient commitment. Outpatient treatment can only be reasonably ensured through court order. 
  • If the mental illness is left untreated, the person with mental illness is reasonably expected to result in qualification for inpatient commitment and has more than once caused the person to refuse needed outpatient care

Involuntary Commitment to a Mental Health Facility Through a Power of Attorney

A Mental Healthcare Declaration and Power of Attorney is a legal document that establishes an individual’s personal preferences related to the treatment of his or her own mental health. This document allows one person to give another person the authority to make healthcare decisions on his or her behalf, should he or she ever become incapacitated or unable to make necessary decisions. The purpose of a Mental Healthcare Declaration and Power of Attorney is to formalize a person’s wishes, so those wishes can be referred to and respected if he or she cannot communicate them. 

Any recipient can give another person the legal authority to make decisions about what type of healthcare he or she will receive. This appointed individual is an “agent” or “attorney-in-fact.” Once you designate an agent, he or she can give consent to treatment on your behalf if you are declared incapacitated by a licensed professional, typically a psychologist or psychiatrist. These treatments can include medications, hospitalization in particular facilities, participation in drug trials, desirable types of crisis interventions, temporary child custody, and any other concerns that may surface in relation to recurrent mental illness. Mental Health POAs are important, because otherwise, family members and friends are unable to intervene until their loved one’s condition deteriorates severely enough to meet state law standards for involuntary treatment. 

Every patient has the right to refuse treatment. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. In instances of an emergency situation, informed consent may be bypassed if immediate treatment is necessary for the patient’s life or safety. If an individual’s mental status is altered due to alcohol, drugs, a brain injury, or psychiatric illness, he or she may not have the right to refuse treatment. If the person with a mental illness is not posing a physical threat to himself or herself or others, he or she has the right to refuse treatment. 

If a patient’s POA documentation specifically requests to receive mental health treatment in the event that he or she has an altered state of mind, the agent can decide to authorize involuntary treatment, assuming it is in the patient’s best interest and the agent is acting in good faith. The recipient can remove his or her agent’s authority to grant consent for involuntary treatment, as long as it is included in the guidelines of the Power of Attorney for Health Care. Mental Health Treatment Preference Declarations are difficult to revoke. 

Of course, an agent can always file a petition for admission by court order, as mentioned above. A court order can authorize a facility to administer involuntary treatment for up to 90 days. If the facility believes that the recipient needs treatment longer than 90 days, it has to file a new court petition. This process is repeated for every 90-day period, until the facility feels that the recipient no longer needs treatment. If a recipient receives involuntary treatment for longer than three months, the facility has to hold an informal hearing to review the involuntary treatment. This hearing has to be held every six months.

To learn more about the rights of people with mental illness, see our other article, Rights of Mental Health Treatment Recipients.

Navigating Illinois' Involuntary Admission Criteria

The process of being involuntarily admitted to a mental health facility can be overwhelming and tense. Familiarizing oneself with the criteria and procedures for involuntary admission in Illinois can provide clarity and reduce stress, whether it is for the person who may be committed or their loved ones.

Understanding the legal grounds for involuntary commitment, emergency admission protocols, as well as one’s rights and protections under law is particularly beneficial for those with a financial or legal stake in this matter. This knowledge helps prevent potential physical harm from occurring at these facilities.

Grounds for Involuntary Commitment

In Illinois, the legal basis for involuntary commitment is established in order to ensure the safety and well-being of both individuals and communities. This standard encompasses various factors that must be thoroughly evaluated and proven.

It’s important to note that involuntary commitment is not intended as a form of punishment, but rather as a means to provide necessary mental health treatment for those who require it most. This includes access to vital services related to mental health care.

Emergency Admission Protocols

The emergency admission protocols in Illinois are designed to ensure prompt and proper care for individuals facing immediate danger. These procedures allow for quick hospitalization of those in crisis, bypassing usual steps involved with involuntary admission.

Even in urgent situations like this, the rights of these individuals must always be prioritized and respected above all else.

Legal Rights and Protections

In Illinois, individuals facing involuntary commitment are afforded a range of legal rights and protections. These measures aim to ensure that the process is conducted fairly and respects the individual’s rights. They include having access to legal representation, an independent assessment, and due process.

These safeguards are in place to uphold the dignity and self-determination of those undergoing involuntary commitment by both public or private entities. Such measures seek to maintain respect for these individuals even during this difficult situation with potential involvement from a private entity.


Navigating the process of involuntary commitment can be a complex and daunting task. However, understanding the steps and legal protections involved can help to ensure that the rights of the individual are protected, and that they receive the most appropriate and effective care. Whether it’s understanding the legal criteria for involuntary commitment, the role of mental health professionals, or the court procedures, each step is vital in ensuring that the individual receives the necessary support and treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long can someone be involuntarily committed to a mental hospital in Illinois?

In Illinois, someone can be involuntarily committed to a mental hospital for up to 90 days. If the facility director believes treatment is needed for longer, they must file a new court petition and two new certificates, and another hearing will be conducted to authorize an additional 90-day period of involuntary treatment.

What is a 5150 psychiatric hold?

A 5150 psychiatric hold is a legal process that permits the involuntary confinement of an adult experiencing mental health issues, if they are considered to be at risk of harm to themselves or others, or incapable of taking care of their basic needs. This provision falls under Section 5150 in the Welfare and Institutions Code.

What is the role of mental health professionals in involuntary commitment?

The role of mental health professionals in voluntary commitment involves evaluating individuals, certifying involuntary admission, and providing essential input during court proceedings.

This is crucial in ensuring the appropriate care and treatment for those in need.

What does the court procedure for ordering involuntary treatment involve?

The process of obtaining involuntary treatment through the court system includes submitting a petition, undergoing a hearing, and completing necessary follow-up procedures. These steps are crucial in determining the need for treatment and confirming its legality.

What rights does an individual have regarding their treatment plan?

As an individual, you retain the right to reject or alter treatment within specific circumstances pertaining to your mental health. A Mental Healthcare Declaration allows for proactive decision-making regarding particular forms of mental healthcare.

Our team is ready address your legal needs remotely OR at one of our many physical locations, including our St. Charles attorneys located at:

O’Flaherty Law of St. Charles
1121 E. Main St., Ste. 124B, St. Charles, IL 60174
(331) 254-3033

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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