A View From the Inside (of HCPC)

Okay, when last we left, you found yourself sitting in an appropriate Mental Health Facility, and you have just been admitted to temporary custody on the application of a person who believed you were suffering from a “mental illness”. You have no idea what to do, and you have no idea what your rights are in relation to your stay. That’s where I come in.

Now, first things first, you need to understand the reason for your stay. The purpose of an emergency detention is to determine if you are suffering from a mental illness and if as a result of the mental illness, you present a substantial risk of harm to yourself or others.

So you’re probably now asking yourself, what exactly constitutes a “mental illness”. The term “Mental Illness” as used in the Texas Mental Health Code is defined as an illness, disease, or condition, other than epilepsy, senility, alcoholism, or mental deficiency, that: (i) substantially impairs a person’s thought, perception of reality, emotional process, or judgment or (ii) grossly impairs behavior as demonstrated by recent disturbed behavior. Tex. Health & Safety Code § 571.003(14).

The first thing that will happen as you reach the facility is that you will be temporarily accepted to the facility for a preliminary examination. Therefore, you need to know your rights. And to that end you should know that if you are apprehended you have the following rights:

1. The Right to be advised of the location of detention, the reasons for detention, and the fact that the detention could result in a longer period of involuntary commitment.

2. The Right to a reasonable opportunity to communicate with and retain an attorney.

3. The Right to be advised that communications with a mental health professional may be used in proceedings for further detention.

This is important because you may be detained in custody for not longer than 24 hours after the time you are presented to the facility unless a written order for further detention is obtained. Once that 24 hours is up, and the physician has given you a preliminary examination, you may be admitted to the facility for emergency detention only if the physician makes a written statement that states that you are mentally ill; that you are evidencing a substantial risk of serious harm to yourself or others; that the described risk of harm is imminent unless you are immediately restrained; and that emergency detention is the least restrictive means by which the necessary restraint may be accomplished.

The written statement must also include a description of the nature of the person’s mental illness; a specific description of the risk of harm the person evidences that may be demonstrated either by the person’s behavior or by evidence of severe emotional distress and deterioration in the person’s mental condition to the extent that the person cannot remain at liberty; and the specific detailed information from which the physician formed the opinion.

If all goes well, the doctor will deem you to not be suffering from mental illness, and he will arrange for you to be released. If he does this, arrangements shall be made to transport you to the location of your apprehension; your residence; or another suitable location. The County will also foot the bill for this transportation.

At the end of the twenty-four hour detention period, you must be released unless you are detained under an Order for Protective Custody.

Next time we will find out just what happens under such an Order.