If someone you love has a substance use disorder, then you may want to get them help. An intervention can persuade an addicted person to enter rehab. What if that doesn’t work? Under Utah laws, can you force someone to go to rehab for their addiction? In Utah, as in many other states, the answer is yes — under very narrow circumstances. Utah laws limit the involuntary commitment of a drug-addicted or mentally ill adult into rehab. Therefore, the process of getting someone into rehab can be frustrating. But, Better Help Addiction Care has experts to help you through the process, so call (385) 327-7318. Our experts are standing by waiting to answer any questions you may have about rehab in Utah.
Protecting Civil Liberties
States must preserve the civil liberties of people with mental illness or substance use disorder. As a result, involuntary commitment is so difficult. However, Utah laws also give loved ones a chance to commit a drug-addicted friend or relative into rehab. History demonstrates why it’s so important to balance these two competing interests. Let’s dive in and discuss the history associated with rehabilitation.
A Dark Past
In the early 20th century, involuntary commitment for the mentally ill was common. In a harsh system, people who weren’t ill were committed for questionable reasons. For example, many women were committed to “hysteria” when they spoke up about women’s rights. Many of the involuntarily committed found themselves in prison because of the overcrowding in asylums.
In response, after World War II, people began advocating for commitment in mental institutions. They believed the mentally ill would receive better treatment in institutions. However, it soon became apparent that the system was just as rife for abuse and neglect as a prison.
The media began exposing the horrific conditions at some of these institutions. In the meantime, research began to show that mental conditions and substance use disorders were illnesses.
Therefore, advocacy groups began pushing the federal government and states to protect the mentally ill’s rights. Ultimately, many states created systems that severely limit or prohibit involuntary commitment.
First and foremost, Utah makes it clear that treatment for a mental illness or substance use disorder is not a punishment. As a result, the state has a very narrow path to commit people to treatment programs involuntarily.
If a person poses as a threat, then they can be involuntarily committed for temporary treatment. Peace officers, or a mental health officer, can issue a temporary 24-hour hold. This requires certification by a medical doctor or a designated examiner. In order for the individual to remain in treatment longer, courts must order a civil commitment. In this case, the state assigns a designated examiner to evaluate the ill person. By concluding that the ill person meets the criteria, then a court can order them to care for the local mental health authority.
If you are worried about someone you care about, and they do not want to go to rehab, give us a call. Our experts are standing by waiting to help you and your loved one. Let us help you, or another individual, get on a healthier and happier path soon.
Hurdles to Civil Commitment
While involuntary commitment does exist in Utah, many hurdles have to be cleared. For example, nine forms must be filed with the court, including:
- Starting the process
- Requesting a court order allowing the patient to be detained prior to a court hearing.
- Notice to the patient, friends and/or family, of a pending court hearing.
- Court notice designating an examiner and requesting an evaluation report.
- Ordering legal counsel for a patient.
- The designated examiner report to the court.
The court will issue a civil commitment order if “having found by clear and convincing evidence that:
- There is a mental illness
- The patient’s poses a substantial danger of physical injury to themself.
- They are unable to provide the basic necessities of life such as food, clothing, and shelter
- The patient cannot engage in a rational decision-making process
- There is no appropriate alternative
- The local mental health authority can provide the individual with sufficient and suitable treatment
The terms of this involuntary commitment order raise concerns among patients. The patient’s civil commitment is for an unknown period. Every six months, the patient will need to be re-examined to determine why the order of indeterminate commitment was first issued.
A report is sent to the court if “the conditions justifying the commitment continue to exist.” As a result, an addicted or mentally ill person remains committed until the next examination in six months.
Advocating for Better Treatment
The Treatment Advocacy Center is a national nonprofit. It devotes itself to stopping anything preventing the mentally ill and addicted to getting timely and effective treatment. The center accomplishes this by promoting laws, policies, and practices for delivering psychiatric care. In addition, it supports new treatments for severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
The Treatment Advocacy Center also issues state-by-state civil commitment law report cards. Let’s find out how Utah is graded on these report cards.
Utah’s “Report Card”
The Treatment Advocacy Center gives Utah a B-. The state gets low marks for its undefined commitment policy. Furthermore, it penalizes Utah courts’ for failing to request treatment plans for patients. Despite those issues, Utah does get high marks for allowing family members access to court-ordered inpatient or assisted outpatient treatment for loved ones.
Generally, assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) is “court-supervised treatment within the community.” An AOT candidate must meet specific criteria, such as a prior history of repeated hospitalizations or arrests.
The AOT Alternative
According to the center, AOTs reduce hospitalizations, incarcerations, homelessness, victimization, and prevent suicide and violence against others.
Moreover, AOTs get local mental health systems to provide treatment at the same time a person is committed.
An important component of Utah Senate Bill 39 mandates court-ordered AOTs to intervene before a person becomes a “substantial danger to self or others.”
- has a mental illness;
- lacks the ability to engage in a rational decision-making process regarding the acceptance of mental health treatment, as demonstrated by evidence of inability to weigh the possible risks of accepting or rejecting treatment;
- needs assisted outpatient treatment in preventing relapse or deterioration that is likely to result in the proposed patient posing a substantial danger to self or others;
- there is no appropriate less-restrictive alternative to a court order for Assisted Outpatient Treatment;
- the local mental health authority can provide the patient with adequate and appropriate treatment to his conditions and needs.
Court-Ordered Treatment for Adolescents
In Utah, many people can have a child committed for treatment: Parents, legal guardians, local mental health authorities, and even other interested adults. To preserve a child’s civil liberties, Utah takes great care to make sure due process is followed.
Separate criteria, paperwork, and procedures are in use for those under age 18. Also, a “Neutral & Detached Fact Finder” is appointed. The fact-finder cannot be involved in the child’s treatment.
The fact-finder can order a local mental health authority to take physical custody of a child if :
- there is a mental illness or a psychiatric disorder that substantially impairs an individual’s mental, emotional, behavioral or related functioning;
- a substantial danger to self or others exists;
- the child will benefit from care and treatment by the local mental health authority;
- an appropriate less-restrictive alternative is lacking.
If there is any disagreement over a particular treatment method, parents, guardians, and even the child can request a due process. Triggering treatments include antipsychotic medications, psychosurgery, electroshock therapy, and other possible invasive treatments.
With the fact-finder’s evaluation in hand, the local mental health authority may get physical custody of the child. The authority can then decide whether a child should be in an inpatient or residential setting.
Utah also mandates commitment proceedings to be conducted “in an informal manner as possible.” The goal is to have the physical setting of the proceedings occur somewhere that is not likely to harmfully affect the child. Therefore, many proceedings are done at home or allow the child to decide what is best for them.
Mental Health By-the-Numbers
Together with other states, Utah must deal with a mental health crisis using limited resources. The Treatment Advocacy Center reports that in 2017, the most current statistics available from the National Institute of Mental Health and the U.S. Census Bureau, show Utah has:
- A total adult population of 2.2 million
- As many as 24,000 individuals with schizophrenia
- Up to 48,000 Individuals with severe bipolar disorder.
Utah woefully lacks event the barest number of available psychiatric hospital beds it needs. The center states that “A minimum of 50 beds per 100,000 people is considered necessary to provide minimally adequate treatment for individuals with severe mental illness. The state fails to meet this minimum standard.” Therefore, many of those with mental illnesses are left out on the streets to fend for themselves.
For example, in 2010, Utah had 310 public psychiatric beds. The number dropped to 252 in 2016. In other words, there were only 8.4 beds per 100,000 people. The state’s rank for public psychiatric beds per capita stands at 44.
Treatment Behind Bars
Even worse is the number of mentally ill inmates languishing in Utah jails. They are waiting for spaces to open up at the Utah State Hospital. According to a report in the Deseret News, mentally ill inmates were waiting up to five months for treatment. Compare that to zero days in Arizona and six in Oregon.
The Deseret News reports that in 2016, Utah judges sent 148 mentally ill defendants to the state hospital for treatment. The number was 88 in 2011. Nevertheless, judges ordered nearly 1,000 mental competency evaluations in 2016 — up from 745 in 2012.
There is one bright spot for Utah, according to the Treatment Advocacy Center. Criminal justice officials have created programs to divert individuals with severe mental illness from the criminal justice system.
Utah Programs Show Promise
Two of the most promising programs are mental health courts and crisis intervention training. The center gives Utah an A+ for serving 91 percent of the population through the two programs.
To keep pushing Utah forward, the Treatment Advocacy Center has three policy suggestions for the state:
- Stop eliminating public psychiatric beds.
- Restore a sufficient number of beds to create access to inpatient care for mentally ill patients in crises.
- Use the state’s civil commitment laws to provide timely treatment to people in psychiatric crisis, thus reducing the consequences of non-treatment on the patient, their families, and their communities.
If you have more questions about how civil commitment laws work in Utah and what rights a rehab patient has, contact us.