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Key Points

  • Like most states, Texas has specific laws governing involuntary psychiatric treatment.
  • Involuntary treatment in emergencies provides potentially life-saving care for those who need it most.
  • Detainment for evaluation in Texas can occur via petition or by action from emergency responders.
  • Criteria for involuntary psychiatric detainment include struggling with mental illness, posing a substantial and imminent risk, and lack of sufficient time to obtain a warrant.
  • Treatment during involuntary holds in Texas involves psychiatric evaluation, medication management, therapeutic interventions, safety planning, and more.

 

Involuntary Treatment Laws in Texas

Engaging with involuntary treatment can offer critical, potentially life-saving care to individuals grappling with their mental health. While initiated under challenging circumstances, involuntary treatment can provide immediate support and psychiatric care for those who may be a danger to themselves or others.

Similar to other states, Texas has its own laws regarding involuntary holds for psychiatric treatment. Learn more about the Lone Star State’s regulations around involuntary care and psychiatric holds.

What Are the Involuntary Treatment Laws in Texas?

In Texas, involuntary treatment laws aim to provide necessary psychiatric care for individuals facing severe mental illness who are otherwise unable to seek voluntary care. Involuntary commitment, typically used as a last resort, is initiated when an individual poses a danger to themselves or others and cannot care for themselves. Involuntary civil commitment, referred to as court-ordered mental health services in the Texas Mental Health Code, is civil rather than legal.[1] Court-ordered mental health services are only authorized when a person’s mental illness poses a substantial risk of serious harm to themselves or others, and inpatient mental health services are deemed the least restrictive appropriate setting.

How Does it Work?

According to the applicable Texas Health & Safety Codes, an involuntary detainment for treatment can come about one of two ways: by a petition or initiated by emergency personnel.[2]

  • Detention can occur through a judge’s order or a peace officer’s action without a court order. Emergency detentions require immediate risk and personal or reliable observations. Applying for a mental health warrant involves contacting the local county clerk or Justice of the Peace Office, detailing the individual’s information.
  • In case of an emergency, dial 911 or contact your local police department. When police arrive, they assess whether the person is over 18 and poses an imminent risk of harm to themselves or others. If “YES,” officers can take the individual into custody and transport them to an inpatient mental health facility for observation, initiating the involuntary commitment process. This can occur against the individual’s will.

In either case, these procedures do not guarantee commitment; they guarantee an evaluation of the potential need for treatment in the least restrictive environment possible.

What Are the Criteria for Detainment?

What Are the Criteria for Detainment

The criteria for an involuntary psychiatric detainment in Texas (for both a judge’s order or initiated by the police) is as follows:[3]

  • You are struggling with a mental illness
  • You pose both a substantial and imminent risk of serious harm to yourself or to others if you are not detained
  • There would not be sufficient time to obtain a warrant before taking you into custody.

Are There Laws to Detain Someone for Substance Use Concerns?

According to Texas Health & Safety Code § 463.062, a person can be compelled to enter substance use treatment under the following circumstances:[4]

  • You are suffering from chemical dependency, which is defined as being someone who abuses, has an addiction to, or has a psychological or physical dependence on alcohol or a controlled substance
  • You are likely to cause serious harm to yourself or to others
  • It is likely you will continue to suffer mental, emotional, or physical distress without immediate treatment
  • You are unable to make a rational and informed choice as to whether to submit to treatment.

What Can I Expect During Treatment?

During an involuntary hold in Texas, individuals may receive various forms of treatment depending on their assessed needs and the nature of their mental health condition. The primary goal of treatment during an involuntary hold is to address the immediate crisis and ensure the safety and well-being of the individual.
Common types of treatment that may be provided include:

  • Psychiatric evaluation: Individuals held involuntarily are typically subjected to a thorough psychiatric evaluation by mental health professionals. This assessment aims to diagnose the individual’s mental health condition and determine the appropriate course of treatment.
  • Medication management: If deemed necessary, individuals may be prescribed psychiatric medications to alleviate symptoms and stabilize their mental health. Medication management is closely monitored to ensure effectiveness and manage potential side effects.
  • Therapeutic interventions: Involuntary holds may involve various therapeutic interventions, such as individual counseling, group therapy, or other evidence-based therapeutic modalities. These interventions aim to address underlying issues contributing to the mental health crisis.
  • Safety planning: Mental health professionals work with individuals to develop safety plans that outline strategies to cope with potential stressors, identify support systems, and prevent future crises.
  • Education and support: Individuals may receive education about their mental health condition, treatment options, and strategies for managing their well-being. Support services may also be offered to connect individuals with community resources and ongoing care.

It’s important to note that the specific treatment provided during an involuntary hold can vary based on the individual’s needs and the policies of the inpatient treatment facility. Additionally, involuntary holds are typically short-term, and individuals may be transitioned to voluntary treatment or other community-based services after the immediate crisis is addressed.

What Are My Rights If I Am Detained?

People who are detained for potential involuntary treatment still maintain several rights. They must be examined as soon as possible, within 12 hours of arriving at the facility. They cannot be detained for more than 48 hours after arriving at the facility unless a judge signs an Order of Protective Custody (OPC).

Furthermore, someone can only be admitted for further treatment if the doctor who examines you determines that you are mentally ill, that you pose a substantial and imminent risk of serious harm to yourself or others, and that an emergency detention is the least restrictive way to restrain you from doing harm.

If someone has been detained, a mental health hearing is mandated to occur within two weeks of this occurring. During this hearing, the court can hear testimony from the warrant applicant, medical experts, and the patient themselves. The court holds the authority to dismiss the case, issue a court order for outpatient treatment, or mandate inpatient care and hospitalization.

Recovery Is Possible

Involuntary treatment can be critical in an emergency, but engaging in proactive and voluntary treatment can be key to sustained recovery. Taking the initiative to seek voluntary treatment allows individuals to address mental health challenges before they escalate to a crisis.

By participating in treatment willingly, you or your loved one can collaborate with mental health professionals to develop personalized strategies, coping mechanisms, and long-term plans for managing your well-being. Voluntary treatment emphasizes active involvement in the recovery process, fostering a positive and supportive attitude on your journey toward better mental health and wellness.

Frequently Asked Questions Involuntary Treatment Laws in Texas

Initiating the process for involuntary treatment involves concerned parties such as family members, first responders, or law enforcement making a referral to a screening center. If they believe an individual poses a potential danger to themselves or others, then the referral sets in motion a comprehensive evaluation.
The screening center’s mental health professionals assess the individual to determine the necessity of involuntary treatment. This proactive approach ensures that those showing signs of severe mental distress receive timely attention and care.

In Texas, voluntary commitment reflects an individual’s personal choice to seek mental health treatment. However, if their condition deteriorates, leading to a potential danger to themselves or others, the situation may evolve into involuntary commitment.
This transition is contingent on meeting specific criteria outlined by the state’s mental health laws. It underscores the flexibility in the mental health system to adapt to changing circumstances and prioritize the safety and well-being of individuals who may require a shift in their treatment approach.

No. Typically involuntary commitment serves as a last resort, activated when individuals with mental illness refuse voluntary treatment and pose a substantial risk. However, the mental health system in Texas provides a spectrum of intervention options. These may include voluntary outpatient services, community-based support, crisis intervention, and more.
The aim is to tailor the intervention to the individual’s needs while respecting their autonomy whenever possible. Involuntary commitment is reserved for situations where immediate action is crucial to address the severity of the mental health crisis.

The duration of involuntary commitment in Texas varies based on individual circumstances and mental health conditions. Texas mental health laws outline specific criteria for the initiation and continuation of involuntary commitment.
While the commitment is designed to be as short as necessary to address the immediate crisis, it must meet stringent criteria, ensuring a balance between protecting the individual and respecting their rights. The commitment’s length is determined by the evolving assessment of the individual’s mental health needs and the potential risks they pose to themselves or others.

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[1] TexasJCMH. (n.d.). Benchbook.texasjcmh.gov. Retrieved from http://benchbook.texasjcmh.gov/library_item/gov.texasjcmh.benchbook/20 on 2023, December 27.
[2] HEALTH AND SAFETY CODE CHAPTER 574. COURT-ORDERED MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES. (2015). Texas.gov. Retrieved from https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/HS/htm/HS.574.htm on 2023, December 27.
[3] Involuntary Commitment in Texas | Texas Law Help. (2017, May 3). Texaslawhelp.org. Retrieved from https://texaslawhelp.org/article/involuntary-commitment-in-texas on 2023, December 28.
[4] HEALTH AND SAFETY CODE CHAPTER 462. TREATMENT OF PERSONS WITH CHEMICAL DEPENDENCIES. (n.d.). Statutes.capitol.texas.gov. Retrieved from https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/HS/htm/HS.462.htm on 2023, December 28.

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