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State-by-State Guide on Involuntary Commitment Laws

Elena Hill, MD, MPH profile image
Medically Reviewed By Elena Hill, MD, MPH • Updated Jul 20, 2023 • 53 cited sources

Involuntary commitment is when a person is forced against their will to be admitted for treatment for a mental health, medical, or substance use disorder. In general, a person can be involuntarily committed for one of three reasons:

  1. They are endorsing suicidal ideation or the desire to self harm
  2. They are endorsing homicidal ideation or the desire to harm others
  3. They are considered unable to take care of themselves and subsequently endangering their own life as a result of untreated mental health condition (this may or may not include substance use disorder).

Involuntary commitment laws exist in every state in the U.S. They serve to govern the detainment and treatment of individuals who pose risks to themselves or others due to their mental illness or substance use disorder (SUD). Often, their family or advocate must step forward and navigate legal channels in order to obtain involuntary commitment.

Specific criteria and procedures for involuntary commitment vary among states, with each having their own statutes and regulations to govern the process. Usually, such laws aim to strike a balance between personal rights and protecting public safety while providing sufficient care for those who are unable or unwilling to seek it for themselves.

Criteria for involuntary commitment often include evidence of mental or emotional instability, risk to oneself or others, or an inability to meet basic needs. Not all states consider substance misuse a sufficient indication that involuntary commitment should take place even though SUD can be fatal.

Which States Have Involuntary Commitment Laws?

All states have involuntary commitment laws outlining the process for connecting someone in crisis, but the specifics of these laws vary by state.

The below information is a general outline of the basic involuntary commitment laws by State but is certainly not comprehensive. Bear in mind that this information is supposed to be a general overview, but may be highly variable based on your location and the specifics of your friend or loved ones medical and mental health conditions. 

If you are considering asking for help obtaining involuntary commitment for a friend or loved one, start by researching local or State laws regarding involuntary commitment. You should gain an understanding of the details and procedures as well as your role in this process. If you are in need of additional support, the first place to reach out is to your health care provider or social worker. 

Alabama Involuntary Commitment Laws

Alabama Mental Health Code regulates involuntary commitment laws in Alabama.[1] According to this code, mental illness does not include substance misuse and alcohol use disorder (AUD) as valid grounds for commitment, but it does allow for commitment when the person can be shown to be at risk of harming themselves or someone else or unable to meet their basic needs. 

This process typically starts with someone, such as a mental health expert or family member, filing a petition alleging that an individual is mentally ill and poses a danger to themselves or others. 

The court then reviews the petition and may order an assessment by a qualified mental health professional. If this professional determines that someone meets involuntary commitment standards, a hearing may be scheduled to determine if that individual should be committed based on evidence presented from both sides. Should the person be accepted into involuntary commitment, they may be treated at a psychiatric hospital or another suitable facility, depending on their needs. 

Alaska Involuntary Commitment Laws

Alaska Statute § 47.30.700 outlines the procedures involved with committing someone to treatment involuntarily either for mental health issues or a substance use disorder.[2] There are specific timelines involved that are designed to protect the individual from undue stress should it be determined that they are not in need of treatment. 

For example, the individual may be held for no longer than 48 hours unless a judge reviews and approves the application for commitment. Depending on the circumstances, their stay may only last up to five or 10 days from the date of filing. 

However, in May 2023, Senate 53 was passed. This law allows for up to two years of involuntary commitment based on psychiatric issues. The purposes is to protect the public from individuals who might otherwise be released after committing a violent crime due to incompetency to stand trial.[3] 

Arizona Involuntary Commitment Laws

The laws regarding involuntary commitment in the state of Arizona are outlined in the Arizona Revised Statutes, Title 36, Chapter 5. They do not include substance use disorder and alcohol use disorder as viable causes for involuntary commitment.

The process of involuntary commitment starts with a petition in Arizona, as it does elsewhere. It may be submitted by any party concerned for the well-being of the individual in question, usually a healthcare provider or family member. If the court reviews the petition, it may either request a hearing for more information or issue an order for the person to enter treatment if it believes that the burden of proof has been fulfilled. 

It’s important to note that the judge may order the person to outpatient treatment, which means that that person will not have round-the-clock supervision.[4] The goal is to connect the person with the most appropriate care for their needs and not necessarily to protect the public.

Arkansas Involuntary Commitment Laws

The involuntary commitment laws in Arkansas are an option for people with a loved one struggling with drug and alcohol misuse or SUD, but only in cases where the person can be shown to be gravely disabled or likely to commit homicide or suicide as a result.[5] 

The usual process of application, evaluation and hearing apply in Arkansas. There is an opportunity to submit the names of witnesses who may be able to corroborate the concerns of the petitioner. 

California Involuntary Commitment Laws

The Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) Act governs the standards and expectations associated with involuntary commitment in California. It stipulates that a person may be committed if they are unable to care for themselves, are at risk of hurting themselves or others, or are gravely disabled.[6]

Though substance misuse and SUD are not valid reasons for involuntary commitment, if it causes any of the issues above, it could serve as a sound basis. 

There are also 5150 holds that can last for a minimum of 72 hours and up to 14 days, during which time the person will undergo evaluation to determine if intensive treatment is required. In most cases, this happens when a police officer comes across someone who is struggling due to mental health issues or extreme intoxication, and there is a risk of self-harm or to the public but no crime has yet been committed. 

Colorado Involuntary Commitment Laws

Colorado is unique in that it is possible for a judge to remand someone to treatment for drug or alcohol use disorder for up to 180 days under the involuntary commitment laws in the state. This is due to the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment Act (ADATSA).[7]

Though it is possible to fight against involuntary treatment, if it can be shown that the person is an “imminent risk” to themselves or anyone else as a result of their substance misuse, it is likely that the judge will order them into treatment as long as they are also stable mentally and medically and also refusing any form of treatment. 

Connecticut Involuntary Commitment Laws

Substance misuse and SUD are valid reasons for involuntary commitment in the state of Connecticut, as long as it can be proven that the person is a threat to themselves or others while under the influence or “gravely disabled.” 

In addition to the commitment application, it is required to also submit the certification of a doctor who agrees that the person should be committed for this reason. The medical provider must have examined the individual in the last two days.[8]

If the court agrees that involuntary commitment is valid, a hearing will be held within seven business days where all the evidence will be reviewed.[9] However, if the judge agrees that treatment is necessary, it may only last for up to 15 days, long enough to go through medical detox. 

Delaware Involuntary Commitment Laws

In Delaware, you can submit a petition to involuntarily commit someone to a rehabilitation facility for substance misuse.[10] The judge may determine whether or not that treatment should be inpatient or outpatient based on their needs and how long that treatment will last. It may be a first step to helping someone help themselves.

District of Columbia Involuntary Commitment Laws

When it comes to involuntary commitment for mental health treatment, the District of Columbia does not view drug and alcohol misuse or SUD as a mental illness. However, the Code of the District of Columbia § 24–607 Commitment by Court order says that if someone is found to be a “chronic alcoholic” and as a result are in immediate danger of substantial harm, they can legally be remanded to inpatient treatment.[11]

The same is true for those who are addicted to drugs. If it appears that they may be in immediate danger of serious harm, they can be ordered to go to treatment. However, in both cases, if it is the first or second time in a 24-month period, treatment cannot last longer than 30 days. 

Florida Involuntary Commitment Laws

While the Baker Act in Florida primarily makes space for people to voluntarily seek treatment and protects their rights to not be held against their will without cause, it also outlines the situations in which an involuntary hold might be necessary.[12] 

Though substance use disorders are not defined as a mental illness per se, if someone is unable to determine whether or not an evaluation is needed or if they are clearly in danger of hurting themselves while intoxicated or due to their SUD, the process of petition and evaluation can be put forth in the court by a concerned family member, law enforcement or medical professional. 

Georgia Involuntary Commitment Laws

In Georgia, there are three ways in which an involuntary commitment to a treatment facility or other mental health treatment center may occur: when two people petition the court together, a doctor files the petition or law enforcement gets involved. 

In order to secure an involuntary commitment, two witnesses have to attest that the individual is addicted to drugs or alcohol or dealing with a mental health disorder that presents a “substantial risk of imminent harm.”[13] The behaviors attested to must have occurred within the 48 hours prior to the petition in order to constitute imminent harm. 

Hawaii Involuntary Commitment Laws

Involuntary Commitment: Hawaii Revised Statute § 334-142 outlines the process for concerned family members to help someone enter treatment for substance misuse even if that person does not believe they need treatment.[14]

The petition has to include a description of conduct and history of substance misuse that make it clear that SUD is an issue as well as the effect that the person’s substance misuse has had on the family. It must also be shown that the person or the family has the funds to pay for treatment and there is a good faith reason to believe that the person will be in danger of harming themselves or someone else if they don’t get help. 

Idaho Involuntary Commitment Laws

Though it is possible to have someone involuntarily committed to mental health treatment if they are clearly unable to make the choice for themselves and in harm’s way, substance misuse and SUD do not fall under the category of mental illness in Idaho. 

Idaho law does acknowledge the connection between alcohol use disorder and serious mental illness, but it states specifically that AUD in and of itself is not enough to deem someone mentally ill.[15] However, if someone is under the influence and likely to hurt themselves or someone else, they can be held involuntarily but usually for a short time and not for the purposes of treatment. 

Illinois Involuntary Commitment Laws

Illinois law does not consider substance use disorder to be a mental illness for the purpose of involuntary commitment.[16] The only way for a person to be committed to a treatment facility against their will is if a court orders it or if the person has an emergency hold put on them. 

Though it is possible for someone to fulfill the criteria of being in imminent danger to themselves or others due at least in part to substance misuse, evidence of substance misuse alone is not enough to win a petition for involuntary commitment.

In many cases, even if involuntary commitment is granted, there are multiple hearings every few weeks to make sure that it is still appropriate and likely won’t last longer than 90 days. 

Indiana Involuntary Commitment Laws

Indiana law allows for people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol or incapacitated by substance misuse to be involuntarily committed, except in the cases where the person is also charged with or convicted of certain offenses that make them ineligible for treatment.[17] 

If the petition for commitment is granted, the person may be ordered to go to inpatient or outpatient treatment depending on the specifics of their case and the type of treatment that will best serve their needs. 

Iowa Involuntary Commitment Laws

Drug and alcohol misuse or addiction is grounds for a petition for involuntary commitment in Iowa, but it’s not enough on its own to warrant a court order.[18] Petitioners must also demonstrate that the individual is at risk of harming themselves or someone else as well. 

There are options for brief commitments that last for up to 72 hours for the purposes of an evaluation and stabilization if the person is under the influence and to determine whether or not treatment is necessary. If the evaluation comes back positive, a hearing will be set up to determine how to proceed. 

Kansas Involuntary Commitment Laws

Though substance misuse may play a role in the involuntary commitment process, it cannot by law be the sole reason that someone is committed to treatment.[19] It may be part of the issue in conjunction with another mental health disorder but if the only reason for seeking treatment is SUD, involuntary commitment will not be an option. 

If substance misuse and another mental health issue co-occur, it must also be shown that the person is at personal risk of harm, that they may hurt someone else and that they are unable to make appropriate choices for themselves when it comes to treatment. 

Kentucky Involuntary Commitment Laws

In Kentucky, the Matthew Casey Wethington Act for Substance Abuse Intervention (Casey’s Law) protects the rights of family members who would like to put a loved one into treatment involuntarily if they are in danger due to SUD or if someone else is potentially in harm’s way. 

However, as a part of the process, the family must commit to paying the full cost of treatment for the person should the court agree to order the involuntary commitment. If the petition is granted, the length of the commitment cannot exceed either 60 days or 360 days, depending on what was requested in the petition or agreed to during the hearing.[20]

Louisiana Involuntary Commitment Laws

In Louisiana, a parent, spouse, legal guardian or adult child can apply for involuntary commitment of a loved one who has a substance misuse or addiction disorder.[21] The application must include a statement of facts, personal observations that demonstrate the person’s behavior puts them at risk, and the assertion that the person has been asked to get help and they have refused. 

If the court decides to accept the application, a hearing will be held to evaluate the issue. If the person is determined to be a danger to themselves or others or is gravely disabled, they will be committed to a treatment program. 

Maine Involuntary Commitment Laws

Maine has one of the top 10 highest rates of drug overdose deaths in the country. For that reason, they have made it possible for families to petition the court to have their loved one struggling with SUD admitted to treatment even if they don’t want to go. According to the Maine Statute 34-B 3801, use of drugs and alcohol can be termed a mental illness for the purposes of involuntary commitment.[22]

In order to do this, the petitioner must be able to demonstrate that they are at risk of suicide or homicide, or that they are unable to take care of themselves and look out for their own best interest. 

Maryland Involuntary Commitment Laws

In Maryland, while it is possible to petition the court and request that someone in crisis be involuntarily committed to treatment, there is no option for involuntary commitment to an outpatient care facility.[23] This means that the court generally requires proof that the person not only has a mental health disorder that requires immediate treatment and that not getting that treatment could ultimately put them in grave danger but that all other less intensive forms of treatment have been attempted. 

Additionally, substance use disorder is not considered a mental illness in the state of Maryland, though if it co-occurs with a mental health disorder and the person is at risk of suicide or homicide, it may play a role in obtaining an involuntary commitment. 

Massachusetts Involuntary Commitment Laws

Involuntary commitment laws in Massachusetts are outlined in Massachusetts General Laws Chapters 123 § 35. The state opens up the opportunity to support someone in getting treatment when they need it and refuse by defining substance abuse and addiction as a viable reason for commitment.[24] 

Additionally, the statute states that only qualified people can petition for involuntary commitment. This includes law enforcement, medical personnel, legal officials, spouses and direct relatives. Should the petition for commitment be accepted by the court, the person may be ordered to attend an inpatient or outpatient treatment program. 

Michigan Involuntary Commitment Laws

If someone is putting themselves, their family or someone else at risk due to an ongoing and untreated substance use disorder, there is recourse to file a petition for involuntary commitment to a treatment program in Michigan. 

In the petition, a doctor’s certification that the person has a substance use disorder should be included. This certification is based on a recent examination and the assertion that the family is able and willing to pay for the cost of treatment.[25] 

The person will likely be evaluated further and asked to appear at a hearing along with an appointed lawyer if they do not have the means to get one for themselves. The judge will then determine whether or not treatment is the best option. 

Minnesota Involuntary Commitment Laws

The involuntary commitment process in Minnesota is open for the purposes of helping people with mental health disorders and substance misuse issues. Voluntary requests for treatment are preferred by the court, but if necessary, Minnesota judges are ready to hand down orders for treatment to those who are at risk of harming themselves or others or are otherwise in grave danger due to an untreated substance use disorder.[26]

Concerned family members, medical professionals and law enforcement can file a petition with evidence of threat of harm with the court and follow through with a hearing to determine whether or not treatment is appropriate. 

Mississippi Involuntary Commitment Laws

In Mississippi, family members who want to help a loved one struggling with SUD get into treatment when they are against the idea can petition the county courts under House Bill 1546 that amends Section 41-31-1 of the Mississippi Code of 1972.[27]

In the petition, in addition to being able to prove that they have an addiction, the family can support their cause by showing how the person is unable to manage their personal business and lacks self-control due to their substance misuse. Depending on the situation, it may be enough to warrant a court order for treatment, as long as it can also be shown that treatment will improve their health. 

Missouri Involuntary Commitment Laws

In 2021, Missouri became the last state in the nation to implement the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, making healthcare coverage through government programs like Medicaid as easily available for mental health treatment as it is for medical issues.[28]

This made it a little bit easier for families of people struggling with SUD who were seeking an involuntary commitment. Previously, the family may have had to demonstrate that they had the resources to pay for treatment if the petition was granted. 

Montana Involuntary Commitment Laws

Montana Code Annotated § 53-21-102 specifically states that drug and alcohol abuse does not qualify as a mental health disorder under the involuntary commitment laws, but if there is imminent threat of harm to oneself or others, or if the person is unable to take care of themselves and substance abuse plays a role, involuntary commitment may still be effective. However, substance misuse treatment may not be the focus of that order. 

In 2023, there has been additional discussion on whether or not people living with dementia or traumatic brain injury may be admitted to a mental health facility with HB 29. Since TBI often co-occurs with substance misuse, this could be significant for Montana families. 

Though the bill passed repeated votes, the governor may veto it. However, it’s likely that a new version of the bill will be created if that occurs.[29]

Nebraska Involuntary Commitment Laws

Substance misuse is a viable cause for involuntary commitment in Nebraska, as long as specific incidents demonstrate that substance use creates situations where the person is violent or unable to care for themselves. 

Legislative Bill 668 was introduced in early 2023 with the goal of expanding mental health care access by making it possible for mental health treatment professionals to help their patients by placing an emergency hold that would include evaluation to see if further treatment is needed.[30] This can be helpful in the cases of substance use disorders when patients report self-harm or harming others while under the influence as well as an inability to stop using on their own. 

Nevada Involuntary Commitment Laws

Nevada does not include substance abuse as a definition of mental health when it comes to involuntary commitment, formerly referred to in the state as “legal holds” or “legal 2000.”[31] 

It does, however, provide for involuntary commitment to treatment when a person shows substantial risk of harm to themselves or others based on past acts. For many people who struggle with substance misuse, this occurs in conjunction with drug and alcohol use. 

While this may ultimately be deemed a criminal issue in Nevada, if it can be demonstrated that the person is unable to care for themselves and that substance misuse is a symptom of an underlying mental health disorder, SUD treatment may be included in their overall treatment plan. 

New Hampshire Involuntary Commitment Laws

Involuntary commitment options in New Hampshire are not available to families seeking treatment for a loved one with SUD who refuses to enter treatment. Substance misuse and extended periods of intoxication are specifically excluded from the definition of mental health in New Hampshire Revised Statute Annotated § 135-C:2, the law that speaks to the process. 

However, a new law in New Hampshire requires that people who are taken in on an involuntary psychiatric hold (something that often happens to people who are under the influence of certain drugs) get help somewhere other than the emergency room. ER admission is the current practice for 72-hour holds, but by 2025, this will no longer be the case, which may mean that people are better cared for during this time and get access to superior mental health evaluations.[32] 

New Jersey Involuntary Commitment Laws

Being under the influence of drugs and alcohol or in a transitory state after being intoxicated is not grounds for involuntary commitment into a treatment program, according to New Jersey Statute Annotated § 30:4-27.2. 

However, for families whose loved one often struggles with homelessness due to co-occurring mental health issues and SUD, a new bill (A-4755) may help them get treatment. This bill empowers mental health professionals to provide care on site at homeless shelters. In the process of these evaluations and assessments, if it is determined that a mental health disorder puts them in imminent danger of hurting themselves or others, they may be able to help them get further treatment.[33]

New Mexico Involuntary Commitment Laws

If someone in New Mexico is living with a mental health disorder and unwilling or unable to get the treatment they need, their loved ones may be able to secure an involuntary commitment for them, but not if substance misuse issues are the sole cause. 

It’s important to note that New Mexico is one of six states in the country that do not provide for involuntary commitment to an outpatient program. If substance misuse co-occurs with a mental health disorder that does qualify for involuntary commitment, it may be necessary to prove that inpatient treatment is necessary and that outpatient care will not work.[34]

New York Involuntary Commitment Laws

Substance misuse and SUD are not considered mental illnesses in New York, but it is possible to secure an involuntary commitment to treatment on the basis of a SUD under New York Mental Hygiene Law § 1.03. 

In New York City, emergency medical personnel in addition to law enforcement are able to involuntarily commit someone who presents with a mental illness. This is important for families who have a loved one living with a substance use disorder because intoxication may cause behaviors that are perceived by police and medics as mental illness.[35] If the time spent on hold includes an evaluation, this may be helpful to the process of petitioning a court for an involuntary commitment to treatment. 

North Carolina Involuntary Commitment Laws

In North Carolina, it is possible to require involuntary commitment to treatment for someone living with a substance use disorder via North Carolina General Statute Annotated § 122C-281. The ability to do so is not limited to family and medical, mental health or law enforcement personnel. Anyone who has knowledge of someone living with a substance use disorder that causes them to be a danger to themselves or to the public can submit a petition. 

It’s something that happens so frequently in North Carolina that new bills keep being submitted that would better track the process to ensure that there are enough resources to support people in treatment and in the legal system.[36]

North Dakota Involuntary Commitment Laws

Submitting a petition to have someone involuntarily committed to treatment based on a substance use disorder is possible in North Dakota under North Dakota Century Code Annotated § 25-03.1- 08. To meet the requirements of the law, relevant events supporting that request must be shown, and the contact information for more people who can corroborate the assertion must be included in the petition. 

However, SUD is not enough. It must also be shown that because of their use of drugs and alcohol, they are in harm’s way or unable to care for themselves and that treatment will improve their situation.[37] 

Ohio Involuntary Commitment Laws

Under Ohio Revised Code Annotated §§ 5119.92 and 5119.93, it is possible for someone related to a person living with an untreated substance use disorder to petition on their behalf to connect them to treatment. It must be shown that treatment can help them and that if they remain untreated, they are in danger or may harm someone. 

In April 2023, House Bill 281 was passed to expand the amount of time that someone may remain in custody on an involuntary hold pending a hearing. As a result, a person may be held for up to 10 days after a petition has been filed pending a hearing for their civil commitment.[38] This, however, is only applicable when the petitioner is law enforcement and the person has committed an offense that allows for treatment as an option. 

Oklahoma Involuntary Commitment Laws

Oklahoma allows for petitions for involuntary commitment under Oklahoma Statute Annotated 43A, §5-410 based on substance abuse and addiction. It must be shown in the petition that the person is deteriorating as a result of their substance misuse or that they are at risk of immediate harm or death due to their use of drugs. 

Someone else being in fear of violence at the hands of the person struggling with substance misuse is also a viable reason for commitment to treatment. The petitioner will need to back up their claims with facts and events that support the need for treatment as well as a list of witnesses who agree.[39]

Oregon Involuntary Commitment Laws

Oregon Revised Statute Annotated § 426.495 is very restrictive when it comes to involuntary commitment, taking extra precaution to ensure that no one is forcibly held against their will unless it is a dire necessity. For this reason, substance misuse and SUD are not grounds for involuntary commitment unless the imminent threat of grave danger or death can be proven.

As of 2023, the state of Oregon was being sued by three large hospital systems for failing to place involuntarily committed civil patients in treatment due to overcrowding caused by criminally committed patients who were too ill to face punishment for their crimes.[40] As a result, though new bills are often introduced to expand involuntary commitment laws, they are almost always shut down due to lack of resources or lack of support. 

Pennsylvania Involuntary Commitment Laws

Pennsylvania’s Mental Health Procedures Act in conjunction with Pennsylvania Statute and Consolidated Statute title 71 1690.105 make it possible for family members to petition the court to involuntarily commit a loved one who has a SUD and, as a result, is unable to provide for their own best interest and needs, thus putting themselves or others in clear and present danger. 

In Pennsylvania, it is possible to be ordered to attend assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) or inpatient treatment depending on the severity of the patient. In 2019, the laws for AOT admission were loosened, making it easier for people to prove a need for this level of care, but this is more expensive for county governments that must cover the cost. As a result, in 2022, many counties began to opt out of involuntary commitment to AOT, which may make it harder for families in crisis to get the help they need in those locations.[41]

Rhode Island Involuntary Commitment Laws

Rhode Island is one of a handful of states that do not accept substance use disorder in general as a basis for involuntary commitment but will accept alcohol use disorder as a viable cause. In Rhode Island General Laws Annotated § 23-1.10- 10, it states specifically that anyone who is picked up by law enforcement and appears to be incapacitated due to alcohol use can be taken into custody and entered into emergency treatment.[42]

This can be helpful for families with a loved one living with AUD because one or more such incidents may help to support admission into a longer treatment program through involuntary commitment, but it is less helpful for families with a loved one who is addicted to other substances. 

South Carolina Involuntary Commitment Laws

Chemical dependence is considered good cause for involuntary commitment in South Carolina under South Carolina Code Annotated § 44-52-70 as long as there is substantial risk of harm to that person or the people around them as a result of their substance misuse.[43]

Anyone who is concerned for an individual’s well-being can petition the court to commit that person to treatment if they can show that their use of substances is excessive and habitual. They must also show that there are a number of court or criminal issues that have happened as a result of substance use, other treatment attempts have been unsuccessful or there are a number of people who can attest that the person is in need of treatment. 

South Dakota Involuntary Commitment Laws

The South Dakota Department of Social Services says that involuntary commitment based on a substance use disorder is possible under South Dakota Codified Laws § 34-20A-70, as long as the person fits the criteria set forth in SDCL 27A-1-2.[44]

This criteria includes the need to prove that the person has a severe mental illness (under which substance use disorders fall) and that the person has a chronic disability as a result or is likely to be harmed or harm someone else. It is also necessary to show that treatment will be helpful to the person and that they will be able to take better care of themselves after they complete the program. 

Tennessee Involuntary Commitment Laws

Tennessee allows for the involuntary commitment of those who have a substance use disorder under Tennessee Code Annotated §§ 33-6-502 and 33-6-504. There needs to be a threat of harm and an inability to make choices that prioritize their best interest. It is necessary to prove that this measure is necessary. 

That is, petitioners must show that all lesser options for treatment are either inappropriate for the person’s disorder, or they have been attempted and the attempts were unsuccessful.[45]

Texas Involuntary Commitment Laws

Texas Health and Safety Code § 462.062 supports the involuntary commitment of someone who has a SUD in cases where it can be shown that they are at risk of harm or that they will deteriorate and be unable to care for themselves if they were to continue without treatment. 

If the court agrees that involuntary commitment is needed, the judge will determine what type of treatment is best and how long it should last based on the specifics of the case.[46]

Utah Involuntary Commitment Laws

There is no ability to involuntarily commit someone to an addiction treatment facility in Utah, according to Utah Code Annotated § 62A-15-602. However, when there is a mental health disorder in evidence and drug and alcohol use is a symptom of that or worsens related symptoms, it may be mentioned as part of the reason that treatment is needed. 

It’s important to note that in these cases, while there may be some support for drug and alcohol misuse, the primary focus will be on treatment of the mental health disorder. For the past few years, there have continually been laws presented with the goal of expanding access to treatment through involuntary commitment in Utah, so changes may be imminent.[47] 

Vermont Involuntary Commitment Laws

Vermont is unique when it comes to its involuntary commitment laws outlined in Vermont Statute Annotated 18 § 8402.[48] While it is possible to have someone involuntarily committed to treatment for a drug use disorder, there is no mention of alcohol use as a reasonable cause. 

The law specifically states the use of sedatives, hallucinogens or stimulants when describing the root cause of an addiction-based mental illness, excluding alcohol. It also describes an uncontrollable desire for the drug, or the inability to stop using the substance of choice even when its use causes continued negative consequences 

Virginia Involuntary Commitment Laws

Substance abuse qualifies as a mental health disorder in Virginia, and therefore, it is grounds for an involuntary commitment to treatment under Virginia Code Annotated § 37.2-801. It is required to show that the SUD is in fact a serious problem and that, if untreated, it could cause harm to the person in crisis or to the people around them. 

In recent years, legislation was introduced that would further help to protect the public against people who might be released too early from treatment and ultimately return to their dangerous behaviors. HB 2329 would require that two medical professionals sign off on the release of someone in treatment, asserting that they no longer qualify for involuntary commitment.[49]

Washington Involuntary Commitment Laws

The Involuntary Treatment Act in Washington outlines the process for involuntary commitment and what that treatment should look like, including when a substance use disorder is the cause.[50]

In general, the petitioner has to prove that their loved one living with SUD has a grave disability, meaning that they are unable to care for their basic needs on their own or that they lose control over their actions and can no longer control their choices when they are under the influence. Failing that, the petitioner will need to prove that the person will harm themselves without treatment or that there is sufficient reason to fear that they will harm someone or their property. 

West Virginia Involuntary Commitment Laws

West Virginia allows for the petition for involuntary commitment for people who are living with a substance use disorder if it can be demonstrated that their use of substances interferes with their ability to manage basic responsibilities at home, at work and in the community. 

Filing a petition for involuntary commitment can be a complex process. In April 2023, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals released two videos to help people understand what the process entails and what to expect as they make their way through it.[51]

Wisconsin Involuntary Commitment Laws

Under Wisconsin Statute Annotated § 51.20, concerned parties can petition to have someone involuntarily committed to treatment based on a substance use disorder, as long as it can be shown that the person is in danger of serious physical injury, disease, debilitation or death if they don’t get help. 

The civil commitment process may be started by a law enforcement officer, medical or psychiatric professional, or a group of at least three people who can assert that the person is in crisis. At least one of those people must have firsthand knowledge of the individual’s SUD status.[52]

Wyoming Involuntary Commitment Laws

Addiction issues due to either drug or alcohol use are excluded from the definition of mental illness for the purpose of involuntary commitment as outlined in Wyoming’s law, Wyoming Statute Annotated § 25-10-101. Intoxication is specifically excluded as well, which means that even when heavy drug and alcohol use contribute to a mental health disorder or to behaviors that may have originated with a mental health disorder, the person may still not be considered a candidate for involuntary commitment. 

Many in Wyoming are concerned about the process of involuntary commitment in the state, citing issues with the cost of care and the process itself. As a result, there may be changes coming in the near future.[53]

The Need for SUD Treatment

If you have a friend or family member who is struggling with substance misuse or SUD, they need treatment. It’s ideal to get them help before it reaches the point of a necessity for involuntary commitment. Oftentimes, addiction treatment professionals, such as interventionists and other specialists, can help you reach out to your loved one and convince them to get needed treatment. However, if your loved one is resistant to treatment, depending on their specific case and the severity of their condition, they may be eligible for involuntary commitment as a last resort. 

If you have concerns about a friend or loved one, reach out to their health care team, or to our providers at Bicycle health for more information. 

Medically Reviewed By Elena Hill, MD, MPH

Elena Hill, MD; MPH received her MD and Masters of Public Health degrees at Tufts Medical School and completed her family medicine residency at Boston Medical Center. She is currently an attending physician at Bronxcare Health Systems in the Bronx, NY where ... Read More

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