Involuntary Commitment

Many families have members diagnosed with mental illness. Mental illness is a condition that impacts a person’s thinking, emotions or mood and may affect the ability to relate to others and function on a daily basis. Each person diagnosed with a mental illness will experience it differently including those with the same diagnosis. It may be difficult to discuss issues or help a person with mental illness and you may wonder whether there is anything you can do. Our experienced attorneys can help guide you in assisting a person with mental illness.

The law defines the following conditions as a serious mental illness: Schizophrenia, Paranoid and other psychotic disorders, Bipolar disorders (hypomanic, manic, depressive, and mixed), Major depressive disorders (single episode or recurrent), Schizoaffective disorders (bipolar or depressive), Pervasive developmental disorders, Obsessive-compulsive disorders, Depression in childhood and adolescence, Panic disorder, Post traumatic stress disorders (acute, chronic, or with delayed onset), Bulimia Nervosa and Anorexia Nervosa.  You can help a person diagnosed with mental illness if he or she stops taking necessary medication, fails to attend therapy, hurts him or herself or becomes unable to care for him or herself.


Kendra’s Law

Section 9.60 of the NYS Mental Health Law, also known as Kendra’s Law, establishes a legal procedure for certain persons to petition the court to order seriously mentally ill individuals to accept treatment as a condition for living in the community.  Specific persons outlined in the statute such as a parent, spouse, or roommate, may petition the court that the subject of the petition meets the criteria for assisted outpatient treatment or AOT.  The Petition must be supported by a sworn statement of a physician who has examined the person within the last ten days attesting to the need for AOT.  Petitioners must prove with clear and convincing evidence that the AOT is at least eighteen (18) years old, suffers from mental illness and is not likely to survive in the community without supervision. 

The Court considers several factors in determining if a person will benefit from AOT because the person will be forced to take medication or undergo other treatment for the mental illness.  The Court will determine which treatment is appropriate in the least restrictive environment.  Factors considered include failure to comply with medical treatment, previous incarceration and violent episodes.  Our experienced attorneys will draft petitions with the required information to be considered by the Court.


Involuntary Commitment

When a person’s mental illness causes the person to be a substantial threat of harm to him or herself or others, involuntary commitment may be an option.  This is an extremely difficult decision for a family member to make, but it may be the only option to keep the person diagnosed with mental illness safe.  In order to commit a person to a mental health facility, a person specified in the statute must petition the Court and present evidence showing that two physicians agree and certify that the person has a mental illness for which care and treatment in a mental hospital is essential to his or her welfare, the person’s judgment is too impaired for him or her to understand the need for such care and treatment, or, as a result of his or her mental illness, the person poses a substantial threat of harm to self or others.

“Substantial threat of harm” may encompass (i) the person’s refusal or inability to meet his or her essential need for food, shelter, clothing or health care, or (ii) the person’s history of dangerous conduct associated with noncompliance with mental health treatment programs. The involuntarily committed person may be held for up to sixty (60) days or longer if the hospital petitions for an order of retention.  Our compassionate and empathetic attorneys are available to help with this delicate topic and complex area of law.