Involuntary Commitment to a Mental Health Facility in Illinois

Involuntary Commitment to a Mental Health Facility in Illinois

Video by Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Article written by Illinois & Iowa Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Updated on
October 28, 2019

In this article, we explain involuntary commitment to a mental health facility in Illinois, including:

  • How to admit someone to a mental health facility against their will in Illinois; 
  • When can a person be involuntarily committed to a mental health facility in Illinois?; and
  • Involuntary commitment to a mental health facility through a power of attorney in Illinois. 

Every state has civil commitment laws that establish criteria for determining when involuntary treatment is appropriate for individuals with mental illness who may not or cannot seek treatment voluntarily. The state of Illinois is one of only 17 states that provide access to treatment on the basis of need with a consideration of potential risk or danger. Individuals with mental illness can be admitted to a mental health facility against their wishes. This is called involuntary admission. 

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.

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

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