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This article covers some common questions that you might ask a mental health lawyer in Indiana, like: Does Indiana have involuntary commitment laws? How do you get someone involuntarily committed in Indiana? What are the criteria for a person to be involuntarily admitted to a hospital or mental health facility in Indiana? And, do I need a lawyer to get someone involuntarily committed to a mental health facility?

This article covers some common questions that you might ask a mental health lawyer in Indiana, like: Does Indiana have involuntary commitment laws? How do you get someone involuntarily committed in Indiana? What are the criteria for a person to be involuntarily admitted to a hospital or mental health facility in Indiana? And, do I need a lawyer to get someone involuntarily committed to a mental health facility?  Although there isn’t exactly a designation of “mental health attorney” in Indiana, most attorney’s practicing in the area of probate, in which guardianships and mental health are major issues, should be able to address your questions in this area.

Does Indiana have involuntary commitment laws?

Yes.  Indiana has an entire code chapter devoted to voluntary and involuntary commitment.

How do you get someone involuntarily committed in Indiana?

That depends upon the type of commitment, or to put it differently, upon how the commitment originated.  There are four (4) ways that a person can be committed involuntary and a fifth way in which an involuntary commitment results from a voluntary commitment.

  1. Immediate Detention. 12-26-4-1 et seq.  A law enforcement officer, having reasonable grounds to believe that an individual has a mental illness, is either dangerous or gravely disabled, and is in immediate need of hospitalization and treatment, may do the following: (1) Apprehend and transport the individual to the nearest appropriate facility. The individual may not be transported to a state institution or (2) Charge the individual with an offense if applicable.  This type of immediate detention cannot last longer than twenty-four (24) hours.  However, an emergency detention may be filed while the person is being held on an immediate detention.
  1. Emergency Detention.  12-26-5-1 et seq.   An individual may be detained in a facility for not more than seventy-two (72) hours, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays, if a written application for detention is filed with the facility. The individual may not be detained in a state institution unless the detention is instituted by the state institution.  The application must contain the following:
  1. A statement of the applicant's belief that the individual is: (1) mentally ill and either dangerous or gravely disabled; and (2) in need of immediate restraint.
  1. A statement by at least one physician that, based on: (1) an examination; or (2) information given the physician; the individual may be mentally ill and either dangerous or gravely disabled.

If a judicial officer authorized to issue warrants approves the application, the application will authorize an officer to take the individual into custody and deliver him or her to a treatment facility.

The treating physician must file a report with the court prior to the end of the detention period stating 1) that the individual has been examined, 2) whether there is probable cause to believe the individual is mentally ill and either dangerous or gravely disabled, and 3) whether continuing care is required.  If there is no probable cause reported, the person shall be released.  If probable cause is reported, a probable cause hearing will likely be held, unless the court orders a release sua sponte, which is unlikely.

  1. Temporary Commitment.  IC 12-26-6-1 et seq. A temporary commitment may be begun upon request of the superintendent holding the patient under an emergency detention, order of the court having jurisdiction over the individual following emergency detention, or filing a petition with a county court having jurisdiction.  A petitioner must be at least eighteen (18) years of age and the petition must include a physician's written statement stating both of the following: (1) The physician has examined the individual within the past thirty (30) days and (2) The physician believes the individual is: (a) mentally ill and either dangerous or gravely disabled; and (b) in need of custody, care, or treatment in an appropriate facility.
  • If after hearing on the petition, the individual is found to be mentally ill and either dangerous or gravely disabled and in need of treatment, the court may order detention for no longer than ninety (90) days.  
  • If the attending physician and facility supervisor find that the individual is no longer mentally ill and dangerous or gravely disabled, they may file a report to that effect with the court and release the individual in advance of expiration of the time period ordered.  
  • If the individual remains detained for the entire period, only one more hold limited to ninety (90) days may be ordered by the court pursuant to the original petition.
  1. Regular Commitment.  IC 12-26-6-2 et seq. A proceeding for the commitment of an individual who appears to be suffering from a chronic mental illness may be begun by filing with a court having jurisdiction a written petition.  The following persons may file the petition: (1) A health officer. (2) A police officer, (3) A friend of the individual, (4) A relative of the individual, (5) The spouse of the individual, (6) A guardian of the individual, (7) The superintendent of a facility where the individual is present, (8) A prosecuting attorney, (9) A third party that contracts with the division of mental health and addiction.  

The petition must include a physician's written statement that sets forth the following: (1) The physician has examined the individual within the past thirty (30) days, (2) The physician believes that the individual is: (a) mentally ill and either dangerous or gravely disabled; and (b) in need of custody, care, or treatment in a facility for a period expected to be more than ninety (90) days.  

If the individual is found in need of treatment, the court may order that the individual be detained for treatment or referred for outpatient treatment until any of the following occur: (1) The individual has been: (a) discharged from the facility; or

(b) released from the therapy program or (2) The court enters an order: (a) terminating the commitment; or (b) releasing the individual from the therapy program.  

  1. Refusal to Release.  IC 12-26-3-5  The fifth way in which a person can be involuntarily committed is if the person voluntarily commits him or herself and is denied release within twenty-four (24) hours of demanding release due to the attending doctor or facility superintendent’s belief that the person is mentally ill and either gravely dangerous and/or gravely disabled  

What are the criteria for a person to be involuntarily admitted to a hospital or mental health facility?

The person sought to be involuntarily admitted for treatment must be found by clear and convincing evidence to be mentally ill and either dangerous and/or gravely disabled.  In Indiana mental illness includes: mental retardation, alcoholism, addiction, to narcotics or dangerous drugs and psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia.  

  • “Mental illness” is defined as a “psychiatric disorder that substantially disturbs an individual’s thinking, feeling, or behavior and impairs the individual’s ability to function.”  IC 16-14-9.1-1(a)  
  • “Dangerous” means that, as a result of being mentally ill, there is a substantial risk that the individual will harm himself/herself or others.  
  • “Gravely disabled” means that the individual is in danger of coming to harm because he or she is unable to provide for food, clothing, shelter or other essential needs, or, cannot function independently due to a deterioration of reasoning or behavior.

Who pays for the commitment?

If the court ultimately finds that there was no probable cause for the transportation to and care in the facility, the county shall pay for those charges.  If there was probable cause for the detention, the individual or his or her spouse, parents, guardians or estates will pay for all charges.

Do I need a lawyer to get someone involuntarily committed to a mental health facility?

There is no legal requirement that a lawyer sign the petition for commitment, but it is in the best interests of all involved if you run your questions by an Indiana attorney before taking action to commit someone.  The Indiana courts are cognizant that Constitutional rights are at stake in a commitment proceeding, so they take the filing of one very seriously.

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