Getting Legal Assistance
- 1Consult a patients’ rights advocate. Patients’ rights advocates are present in every mental health facility in California. Their job is to explain your rights to you and advocate for your best interests in the commitment proceedings.
2Talk to a trusted friend or family member. Since you likely are in a hospital receiving treatment, you may be unable to get the legal assistance you need on your own. A trusted friend or family member can assist you by gathering documents or interviewing attorneys.
- The patient advocate has no clinical or administrative responsibility for any mental health services you receive while you are undergoing evaluation.
- The patient advocate is not your attorney, and cannot give you legal advice. However, they can answer your questions about the commitment procedure and California state law regarding involuntary psychiatric commitment, including your rights under state law.
- They also have the ability to investigate any complaints you may have about your treatment at the facility.
3Work with your own counselor or therapist. If you were already seeing a counselor or therapist for your mental condition, try to meet with them as soon as possible after your 72-hour holding period begins. They will be able to guide your care.
- You also may be able to avoid psychiatric commitment if you have a friend or family member who is willing to care for you and offer you shelter after the evaluation period.
- You have the right, during your 72-hour evaluation period, to see visitors every day, as well as have access to telephones to make and receive confidential calls.
- Check the facility where you’ve been admitted to find out their visitation policy and the hours of the day when you may use the phone or receive visitors.
- If the phones aren’t placed in an area where you feel comfortable, ask a staff member where you can make a phone call and have some privacy.
4Search for an appropriate attorney near you. Work with a trusted friend or family member to locate an attorney who represents mental health patients in involuntary commitment proceedings. Look for someone who has experience helping clients avoid psychiatric commitment.
- You have the right to treatment that is the least restrictive of your personal liberty and still protects your welfare and the welfare of others.
- If you already were seeing someone for your mental condition, and simply had a lapse, the courts typically will favor their recommendations for your continued care.
- Your own counselor or therapist also will be able to speak to whether you continue to be a danger to yourself or others.
5Sign a retainer agreement. If you find an attorney you trust and who you believe will help you avoid involuntary commitment, make sure you sign a written retainer agreement specifying exactly what you will pay them and what they will do for you.
- The patient advocate in the facility where you’ve been committed may be able to recommend attorneys who are qualified to represent you.
- Have a friend or family member evaluate any attorneys recommended to assess their experience and qualifications.
- Ideally, you should interview two or three attorneys yourself before you make a decision to hire someone. They can visit you at the institution or call you.
- Because while you are being held for evaluation you have no way of knowing whether you will be committed, it may not be wise to hire an attorney at this point. However, it’s still a good idea to talk to one.
- If you’re talking to attorneys during the evaluation hold, you may want to go ahead and hire someone immediately if you have the means to do so. Hearings happen very quickly, and you may not have time to hire someone later.
- Keep in mind that if you are unable to afford a private attorney, you may be able to get assistance from a public defender if the mental health professionals who complete your evaluation make the decision to commit you.
- The patients’ rights advocate who has been working with you also has the ability to represent you at your certification review hearing.
- Your patients’ rights advocate must present your point of view during all hearings and review proceedings. This means that if you want to be released, your advocate must argue for your release, even if they personally feel otherwise.
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Source: wikihow. com