When can mental health facilities use restraints and seclusion in Illinois?

When can mental health facilities use restraints and seclusion in Illinois?

Video by Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Article written by Illinois Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Updated on
October 9, 2019

In this article, we answer the question: when can illinois mental health facilities use restraints and seclusion in order to prevent recipients from harming themselves or others?  We also answer the following:

  • What is the definition of “restraining” in the context of Illinois mental health treatment?
  • What are the rules for mental health facilities’ use of restraints in Illinois?
  • What is the definition of “seclusion” in the context of Illinois mental health treatment?
  • When can an Illinois mental health facility seclude a patient?

For more on the rights of mental health patients, check out our article: Rights of Mental Health Treatment Recipients in Illinois.

What is the definition of “restraining” in the context of Illinois mental health treatment?

“Restraining” refers to restricting a recipient’s ability to move a certain part of the body. This can mean straps, jackets, mitts, being pinned down by another person, etc. Brief physical force in emergency situations to prevent a person from harming another person doesn’t usually count as a restraint. 

What is the definition of seclusion in the context of Illinois mental health treatment? 

Seclusion refers to a recipient being placed alone in a room from which he or she has no means of leaving.  Requiring a recipient to stay in one portion of a larger room, provided the time period is no more than two hours at a time or four hours in a day, is not considered seclusion. 


What are the rules for mental health facilities’ use of restraints and seclusion in Illinois?

When using restraints, mental health facilities must abide by the following rules: 

  • Restraints can only be used to prevent the patient from harming himself or others.    
  • Any staff member who uses the restraint must have received thorough training on how to safely and properly use the restraint.
  • The restraint shouldn’t be more confining than necessary. 
  • A staff member has to personally check on the recipient every 15 minutes while he or she is restrained or secluded.
  • Recipients are entitled to be freed from the restraints to eat and use the bathroom, unless these acts would endanger the recipient or others. 
  • Before a restraint or seclusion is used, a mental health professional has to personally observe the recipient and make a written order in his or her treatment records. 
  • Each order can only remain in effect for up to 16 hours. For each additional 16-hour period the restraint is used, the mental health professional has to write a new order. 
  • The staff member who authorized the restraint has to notify the facility director of the restraint within 24 hours. 
  • If a recipient has been restrained during all or part of 24 hours, or if a recipient has been secluded during all or part of 16 hours, he or she may not be restrained or secluded at all during the next 48 hours without written permission from the facility director. 
  • When a restraint is imposed, the facility has to advise patient of his or her right to notify any person he or she chooses of the restraint, such as a legal guardian or lawyer. 

When can an Illinois mental health facility seclude a patient?

Seclusion should never be used as a form of punishment; this method can only prevent a patient from harming herself or others. Similar to restraining, seclusion can only be used for a legitimate reason related to the recipient’s care. 

Seclusion rooms must be adequately lighted, heated, and furnished, and a facility staff member must be nearby with a key at all times.

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