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Mental Health Civil Commitments
The Mental Health/Civil Commitment area of the Probate Court Division has the obligation of committing persons to treatment centers with the allegation of Mental Illness, Developmentally Disabled, Chemical Dependency, Psychopathic Personality and referrals from Criminal Court. This area processes and maintains files on Petitions for Judicial Commitment along with Petitions for Administration of Neuroleptic Medications and Petitions for Administration of Electroconvulsive Therapy. The Mental Health Unit is governed by Minnesota Statutes 253B. (http://www.revisor.leg.state.mn.us/stats/253B/).
Types of Commitments
The six types of civil commitment proceedings are:
- Mentally Ill persons (MI) - Persons that are mentally ill and as a result, pose a danger to themselves or others;
- Developmentally Disabled (DD) - Persons that are developmentally disabled and as a result, pose a danger to themselves or others;
- Chemically Dependent persons (CD) - Persons that are chemically dependent, unable to manage personal affairs, and as a result, pose a danger to themselves or others;
- Persons Mentally Ill and Dangerous to the Public (MI&D) - Persons that are mentally ill and as a result, have caused or intended to cause serious physical harm to another and are likely to take such action in the future;
- Sexual Psychopathic Personalities (SPP) - Persons who have an utter lack of power to control their sexual impulses as the result of a mental disorder and therefore pose a danger to the public;
- Sexually Dangerous Persons (SDP) - Persons who have a mental disorder who have engaged in and are likely to continue to engage in harmful sexual conduct.
The civil commitment process begins with a request to file a petition for commitment. Generally, either a family member or the treating hospital serves as the petitioner. The petitioner requests that the patient be placed involuntarily under the care and supervision of a hospital or regional treatment center because of one of the six reasons discussed above.
This request for petition and all of the attachments that describe the patient's recent behavior and reasons supporting commitment are forwarded to the County pre-petition screening team. This team reviews the petition, investigates the allegations, interviews the patient and other interested persons and reviews the patient's records.
After collecting and reviewing all relevant information, the team determines whether to continue the commitment process. If the team rejects the petition, it is sent back to the petitioner who may appeal this decision directly to the County Attorney's Office. If the team recommends commitment, it drafts a report summarizing all of its investigations and submits this to the Civil Commitment Unit of the County Attorney's Office.
An Assistant County Attorney reviews the petition, all the attachments, and the pre-petition screening report to insure that all of the requirements necessary for a valid commitment are met and that there is sufficient evidence to prove the underlying behaviors and that commitment is the least restrictive alternative available to the patient. If the County Attorney's Office approves the petition, the matter is set for a pretrial hearing.
Once a petition is filed for the commitment of a patient, an attorney is selected from a pre-appointed panel to represent the patient throughout the commitment process. The patient also has the option of hiring their own private attorney. This attorney is an advocate for the patient's interests and informs the patient about the commitment process and the law.
The court process consists of three statutorily required hearings, beginning with the preliminary hearing. This hearing provides an opportunity for a voluntary agreement to be entered into by all the parties that may eliminate the need for further hearings. If a settlement is not reached, the court determines whether the patient presents an imminent danger to himself or others. If the court finds that there is an imminent danger, the patient is held in a secure facility.
The court then appoints an examiner and the patient selects a second examiner to conduct a pre-hearing examination. These licensed professionals examine the patient and submit reports to the court with their recommendations concerning commitment. These examinations are independent of those done by the staff at the treating hospital.
After completing the above examinations, the case is heard by a judge in a full judicial hearing. The petitioner, through their counsel the County Attorney, calls witnesses and submits evidence showing that all of the requirements for commitment have been satisfactorily met. The patient is then allowed to submit evidence to show that he or she does not meet the conditions necessary for commitment, or that there is a less restrictive alternative available for them.
The judge then makes a determination, based on all of the evidence, regarding the level of treatment needed by the patient. The judge may dismiss the petition completely or may structure a treatment plan that the patient agrees to comply with. If necessary, the court may commit the patient to a treating hospital under the care and supervision of the court and the hospital. In extreme cases, the court may even order a patient to receive medications that the patient does not wish to receive. This only occurs after a separate hearing is held to determine that this action is appropriate. This hearing is often known as a Jarvis hearing.
Most patients are committed to either a public or private hospital for treatment with the Anoka-Metro Regional Treatment Center serving as a back-up location. Most initial commitment periods cannot exceed six months. After six months, the court is required to review the matter following a full trial hearing, and decide whether to extend the commitment up to a maximum of twelve months. However, in cases involving Mentally Ill and Dangerous Persons, Sexual Psychopathic Personalities, or Sexually Dangerous Persons, commitment is of an indefinite duration. Periodic reviews are conducted by the court to determine whether the initial commitment remains valid.