Involuntary Commitment for Mental Health Treatment

Involuntary commitment for mental health treatment is often an extraordinarily confusing and frightening experience for patients and their families. Generally, this process starts when the patient has a break, a mental health episode that causes someone to be concerned enough for the patient that they contact police or mental health services. That call triggers a short period of commitment for evaluation. If, during the evaluation period, behavioral health experts determine that the person is a danger to themselves or others, they may file a petition for court ordered treatment.

When a petition for court ordered treatment is filed, a hearing will be scheduled where the Court will determine whether the person is a danger to themselves or others as a result of some disability, and whether that person is unable or unwilling to seek treatment voluntarily. If the Court determines that both are true, it may order the person to receive treatment. Under A.R.S. § 36-540 the Court has three options:

  1. Outpatient treatment: The Court may order the patient to receive treatment on an outpatient basis. The patient will be assigned a contact to ensure that they are following their treatment plan.
  2. Inpatient/outpatient: The Court may order the patient to receive treatment consisting of both inpatient and outpatient care.
  3. Inpatient treatment: The Court may order the patient confined to a behavioral health facility for treatment.

Court ordered treatment programs are in effect for one year, or until the patient is determined to be voluntary.

Often, when patients or their families are told that a doctor has filed a petition for court ordered treatment and are confronted with this statute, they come to the conclusion that the patient may end up confined to a behavioral health facility for a year. This is rarely the case. Arizona’s mental behavioral health services are designed to stabilize and release patients. Only in extreme cases, or in cases where the patient has a pattern of abandoning treatment, would a long period of commitment be ordered.

If you or a loved one are the subject of a petition for court ordered treatment, please contact our firm today. Our attorneys are familiar with this process and can advocate on your behalf.