Involuntary commitments

If you become ill, no one can force you to seek treatment, with two exceptions. If you are mentally ill or chemically dependent and you are likely to do substantial bodily harm to yourself or others, you can be civilly committed.

The process in Hennepin County usually begins in a hospital. The medical staff becomes concerned and a doctor certifies that the patient is mentally ill or chemically dependent and likely to cause substantial harm. A county agency further screens the patient and turns over all the information to the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office’s Adult Services Division.

The lawyers there decide whether to prepare a petition for the commitment. If a petition is filed, there is a hearing before a judge within 10 days. An assistant county attorney argues for the commitment and the patient’s lawyer argues on the client’s behalf. The judge can order the patient into a hospital or other treatment facility, usually for three or four weeks. The patient often then returns home or is placed in a community facility for follow-up care. During that time, the patient is under the supervision of a county case manager.

Unless the case manager and others determine otherwise, the commitment ends after six months. In order to extend it another six months, a judge would hold a hearing.

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