Mental Health Evaluations and Treatment

Processes and Procedures for Assisting Mentally Ill Persons Into Treatment

The attorneys at Alford & Burkhart have cumulatively appeared in over one-hundred “involuntary treatment” cases involving mentally ill persons.

Family members attempting to help an adult mentally ill parent, son, daughter, brother or sister receive treatment often find themselves in a difficult position, feeling like their “hands are tied” and without the resources or the ability to help their loved-one get mental health treatment.

In appropriate cases, the laws of Georgia allow people to seek a court-ordered evaluation and court-ordered mental health treatment of others.  Any person may file with the court a petition executed under oath alleging that a person within the county is a mentally ill person requiring involuntary treatment. The petition must be accompanied by the certificate of a physician or psychologist stating that he has examined the patient within the preceding five days and has found that the patient may be a mentally ill person requiring involuntary treatment and that a full evaluation of the patient is necessary.

Our attorneys provide clients with the legal advice and guidance to properly file these involuntary evaluation/treatment petitions to put people in the best position to help their loved-ones.

Definitions of Common Terms

Mentally ill person requiring involuntary treatment

“Mentally ill person requiring involuntary treatment” means a mentally ill person who is an inpatient or an outpatient.

Outpatient
“Outpatient” means a person who is mentally ill and:
(A) Who is not an inpatient but who, based on the person’s treatment history or current mental status, will require outpatient treatment in order to avoid predictably and imminently becoming an inpatient;
(B) Who because of the person’s current mental status, mental history, or nature of the person’s mental illness is unable voluntarily to seek or comply with outpatient treatment; and
(C) Who is in need of involuntary treatment.
Inpatient
“Inpatient” means a person who is mentally ill and:
(A)(i) Who presents a substantial risk of imminent harm to that person or others, as manifested by either recent overt acts or recent expressed threats of violence which present a probability of physical injury to that person or other persons; or
(ii) Who is so unable to care for that person’s own physical health and safety as to create an imminently life-endangering crisis; and
(B) Who is in need of involuntary inpatient treatment.

Common Mental Illnesses

Which may require involuntary treatment if ignored.

  • Schizophrenia

  • Bi-Polar Disorder

  • Major Depression

  • Dementia

Patient’s Rights

Persons who are the subject of involuntary evaluation or treatment proceedings have certain rights in connection with the legal procedures and with the treatment itself. These rights are specified by statute. Georgia law contains due process protections in involuntary treatment proceedings. Although attorneys are often appointed by courts to represent allegedly mentally ill persons, persons who are the subject of involuntary evaluation or treatment proceedings have the right to hire their own private attorneys.