When a person experiences psychological issues that causes him to lose sight of reality, have impaired judgment or lose the ability to control his behavior, he may be a danger to himself, other people or property. If he is unwilling to accept treatment, it may be necessary to seek his involuntary commitment to a psychiatric facility, where his condition can be assessed.
Title 30:4-27 of the New Jersey statutes pertains to the initiation of court proceedings for the involuntary commitment of a New Jersey resident. New Jersey Superior Court rule 4:74-7, Civil Commitment - Adults, details the specific procedure for obtaining involuntary commitment. On commitment to a psychiatric facility, the person is initially held for up to three days. If further assessment is required, she can be held for a further period. She is entitled to a court hearing within 20 days of her entry into the facility, to determine if there is a continued need for commitment. The patient is also entitled to attorney representation, to attend the hearing, to present evidence and cross examine witnesses. The court must be in possession of convincing evidence to warrant extending the period of commitment.
If the person's behavior has escalated to a point where you believe that there is an immediate danger, call your local police department. If they consider it necessary, the police will arrest the person, and have a certified screening service assess the need to get a court order filed for his involuntary commitment. The court order may not mean that the person will be held at a psychiatric facility. Instead, it may call for the person to attend outpatient treatment sessions; failure to attend those sessions may cause the person to be committed to a facility for inpatient treatment.
If law enforcement has not been involved, yet medical professionals or a mental health screening service deems a person's behavior to be sufficiently troubling, the person may be detained by a facility, without a court order, for up to 48 hours. Independent screening certificates must be signed by two professionals, one of whom must be a psychiatrist. If there is a need to detain the person for a longer period, the necessary court orders must be in place. These situations may arise through: hospitalization for physical issues, when a patient displays erratic behavior; substance abuse treatment, where a person relapses and experiences mental health issues; and through families reporting evidence of severe mental health issues to the person's general physician or treatment specialists.
Mental Health System
In attempts to modernize and improve its mental health services, New Jersey's public mental health system has adopted a less restrictive, yet more comprehensive approach, to mental health care. This includes promotion of outpatient treatment programs, which intends to treat patients more effectively and efficiently. Its comprehensive approach to care not only treats her psychological and physical conditions but assists her in finding suitable housing, work and recreational activities. It also provides continuing support as she attempts to progress with her life.
Helen Harvey began her writing career in 1990 and has worked in journalism, writing, copy-editing and as a consultant. She has worked for world-class news sources including Reuters and the "Daily Express." She holds a Master of Arts in mass media communications from Cambridge University in the United Kingdom.