Office of the State's Attorney - Patrick D. Kenneally

Mental Health Involuntary Commitment

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After any tragic occurrence seeming to involve someone with mental health issues, we often are asked, “why had that person not been admitted to a mental health hospital for help?!” 

Mental illness is not a crime and those suffering from a mental illness do not forfeit their rights, benefits, and privileges under the law, the Constitution of the State of Illinois, or the Constitution of the United States.  In order to ensure that mental health is not further stigmatized and that those suffering from mental health are not unduly deprived of their rights to liberty, are treated humanely, and that their condition is not exacerbated by being confined against their will, Illinois has imposed stringent criteria that must be met before a citizen can be involuntary committed.

Involuntary Commitment Standard and Procedure

O’Conner v. Donaldson, a seminal Illinois Supreme Court case, set forth the law with respect to involuntary commitments.  Donaldson involved the 15-year commitment of a mental health patient.  The supreme court held that non-dangerous persons capable of living in the community by themselves or with the help of willing and responsible friends or family could not be held against their will.

The supreme court defined “mental illness” as “a mental, or emotional disorder that substantially impairs a person’s thought, perception of reality, emotional process, judgment, behavior, or ability to cope with the ordinary demands of life.”  It does not include a “developmental disability, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease absent psychosis, a substance abuse disorder, or an abnormality manifested only by repeated criminal or otherwise antisocial conduct.”

The supreme court made clear that proof of a mental illness alone is insufficient to commit a person.  Rather, a person may be involuntarily committed in only three circumstances.

  1. A person with a mental illness who because of his or her illness is reasonably expected, unless treated on an inpatient basis, to engage in conduct placing such person or another in physical harm or in reasonable expectation of being physically harmed;
  2. A person with a mental illness who because of his or her illness is unable to provide for his or her basic physical needs so as to guard himself or herself from serious harm without assistance of family or others, unless treated on an inpatient basis; or
  3. A person with a mental illness who refuses treatment or is not adhering adequately to prescribed treatment; because of the nature of his or her illness, is unable to understand his or her need for treatment; and if not treated on an inpatient basis, is reasonably expected, after deterioration, to meet the criteria of either prong (1) or (2) above.

Once it has been determined that a person may meet one of the three requirements set forth above, the following procedure must be followed:

  • A petition for involuntary admission on an inpatient basis must be:
    • Completed;
    • Signed and dated;
    • Made by a person 18 years of age or older;
    • Given to the facility director of the mental health facility in the county where the respondent resides or is present;
    • Filed with the court, together with the initial certificate from a qualified examiner, proof of service, and second certificate, within 24 hours of admission.
  • The petition must include the following:
    • The assertion that the respondent meets one of the criteria for involuntary admission.
    • Detailed statement of the reasons for the assertion that the respondent is subject to involuntary admission.
    • The signs and symptoms of a mental illness.
    • A description of any acts, threats or other behavior or pattern of behavior supporting the assertion and the time and place of their occurrence.
    • The name and address of the spouse, parent, guardian, substitute decision maker, if any, and close relative, or if none, the name and address of any known friend of the respondent whom the petitioner has reason to believe may know or have any of the other names and addresses.
      • If the petitioner is unable to supply any such names and addresses, the petitioner shall state that diligent inquiry was made to learn this information and specify the steps taken.
    • The petitioner’s relationship to the respondent and a statement as to whether the petitioner has a legal or financial interest in the matter or is involved in litigation with the respondent.
    • If the petitioner has a legal or financial interest in the matter or is involved in litigation with the respondent, a statement of why the petitioner believes it would not be practicable or possible for someone else to be the petitioner.
    • The names, addresses and phone numbers of the witnesses by which the facts asserted may be proved.
    • The name, badge number, and employer of any peace officer who detained and / or transported respondent to the mental health facility, and / or took the respondent into custody.
    • A statement that petitioner has made a good faith attempt to determine whether the recipient has executed a Power of Attorney or declaration under the Mental Health Treatment preference Declaration Act, and to obtain copies of these instruments.

In addition to and within 72 hours of filing the petition, the prospective patient must be examined by a qualified examiner, which would include a physician, psychiatrists, and clinical psychologist.  The qualified examiner must then complete a certificate stating that he or she examined the prospective patient and setting forth his or her assessment.  The certificate must be filed with the petition.

After the petition and one certificate are filed with the court, the court shall make an initial determination as to whether to involuntary commit the prospective patient. If the patient is involuntary committed, the court shall then set a hearing date to be held within 5 days, excluding Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, after receipt of the petition to determine the whether the patient should be further detained and, if so, the duration of any such commitment.

After admission, the patient must be evaluated again by qualified examiner. The qualified examiner must then file a certificate within 24 hours of admission. The second examination must be completed by a psychiatrist if the first examination was not completed by a psychiatrist.

How to Get Help and Begin the Process of Involuntary Commitment

  • Call the police if you are dealing with a prospective patient who is exhibiting or threatening violence.
  • Contact the McHenry County Crisis Services Hotline at (800) 892-8900.
  • Contact the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office at (815) 334-4159 and ask to speak with someone about involuntary commitment.
  • If the prospective patient is neither violent nor threatening violence, you may also transport the patient to any one of the three Centegra Hospitals for an evaluation.