It can be challenging to see a family member or friend struggle with mental illness. A person suffering from it may find themselves involuntarily committed to a mental health institution. How long they spend in treatment depends on several factors.
A court bases its commitment order for involuntary treatment on specific criteria that a mental health facility superintendent or physician believes the individual meets. If an individual is having a mental health crisis, they or someone else should call 911 on their behalf, and emergency responders will evaluate the situation.
What Is Commitment Under Indiana Law?
Commitment describes the legal process used by the court when issuing an order for an Indiana resident to receive mental health care. This is called a commitment order. A mental health commitment order can be for either inpatient or outpatient services. If a person is getting treatment through an outpatient program, they can continue living in the community, but must follow the requirements or restrictions of the court order.
If a person receives inpatient treatment, they will stay in a mental health facility while receiving it. Admission to a facility can occur in a few ways and can change over time. Admission can be voluntary when an individual over 18 years of age chooses to become a patient at a facility and voluntarily admits themselves for treatment by signing a consent form.
Under certain circumstances, voluntary admission may later become involuntary. Involuntary commitment occurs when an individual is admitted for mental health treatment against their will.
Criteria for Involuntary Commitment
A patient must meet Indiana's legal criteria in order to receive an order of involuntary commitment. Individuals must show clear and convincing evidence of mental illness that makes them dangerous, gravely disabled or both. In Indiana, mental illness is a disturbance of a person's behavior, thinking or feeling due to drug addiction; alcoholism; psychiatric disorders, like schizophrenia; or intellectual disability.
As the result of mental illness, the person must also be dangerous, which means they show a substantial risk of harming themselves or others. They may also be "gravely disabled," meaning they are in harm's way because they cannot provide for their basic needs or function independently. There are four types of involuntary commitment in Indiana:
- Immediate detention.
- Emergency detention.
- Temporary commitment.
- Regular commitment.
Process for an Immediate Detention Order
If law enforcement has reasonable grounds to believe that an individual with mental illness needs hospitalization, that person can be held for 24 hours and transported to the nearest appropriate facility that is not a state institution. They may also face charges for a criminal offense, if applicable.
A police officer must submit a written statement to the mental health facility stating their reasons for that person's immediate detention, which is filed in the facility's records. The facility superintendent or a doctor may provide that patient with emergency treatment to preserve their health and safety.
If they believe the person should be in treatment longer, they can apply to the court for emergency detention. They must do so as soon as it becomes available or within 72 hours of the individual's admission to the mental healthcare facility, whichever occurs earlier.
Process for Emergency Detention Orders
In an emergency detention, individuals can be kept in a mental health facility for a maximum of 72 hours. Emergency detention occurs through a written application to the facility stating that an individual is mentally ill and due to this condition is gravely disabled, dangerous or needs immediate restraint.
The application must contain a written statement from at least one doctor who has either examined the person or received information from another physician who states the patient has met these criteria. The 72-hour hold excludes weekends and legal holidays.
Temporary Commitment in Indiana
If a facility superintendent or physician holding a patient under emergency detention, or a court with jurisdiction over an individual, believes that the person is mentally ill, gravely disabled or dangerous, they can be admitted to a mental healthcare facility for up to 90 days.
A petitioner must file a petition for temporary commitment of an individual with the county clerk. They must be at least 18 years old and include a written statement from a doctor that they:
- Have examined the person within the past 30 days.
- Believe the individual fits the legal criteria for commitment.
- Believe the person needs care, custody or treatment in an appropriate mental health facility.
Regular Commitment Laws in Indiana
In a regular commitment proceeding, the petition contents and accompanying documents are generally the same as they would be for a temporary commitment. If the court finds someone in need of treatment, it may order that they be detained or receive outpatient treatment until they are discharged from the facility program or the court terminates the commitment or otherwise releases them.
Regular commitment must meet the same criteria as a temporary commitment, but lasts longer than 90 days. The petitioner may be a:
- Health officer.
- Law enforcement officer.
- Relative, spouse or guardian of the person.
- Facility superintendent or physician where the person is present.
- Prosecuting attorney.
- Third party contracted with the state division of mental health and addiction.
A person can also receive an involuntary commitment if they first commit themselves for treatment, and later a treatment facility superintendent or doctor denies their release within 24 hours because they believe the individual meets the criteria for mental illness.
Before someone is committed to a state institution, a community mental health center must evaluate them and report that their commitment is appropriate. The court will then order the individual's care, custody or treatment in an appropriate mental health facility.
- Justia Law: 2018 Indiana Code Title 12 Section 12-7-2-130 Mental Illness
- Find Law: Indiana Code Title 12. Human Services Secction 12-26-4-1
- Case Text: Indiana Code Section 12-7-2-96 Gravely Disabled
- Indiana.gov: Indiana Disability Rights
- O'Flaherty Law: Involuntary Commitment to a Mental Health Facility in Indiana
- Consult your local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) for the best resources in your municipality. NAMI has an Indiana chapter, as well as several local chapters within the state.
- According to Indiana law, people who petition for involuntary commitment are immune from liability as long as the petition is made in good faith and not out of malice.
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.