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Helping Your Loved One Get Schizophrenia Treatment

Involuntary Hospitalization

In some situations, your loved one may need to get treatment in a hospital even though he doesn't want to go. You may hear this referred to as "involuntary hospitalization" or "involuntary commitment."

"Laws governing involuntary commitment differ from state to state," Reiss says. Most states only allow involuntary hospitalization if someone with schizophrenia is in one of these situations:

  • An immediate danger to himself or others
  • "Gravely impaired" and unable to function (for example, being unable to provide basic things for himself, like food, clothing, and shelter).

If your loved one is in danger, a psychiatric "hold" is placed. That means the hospital is authorized to keep him for a certain period of time. The length of time and who can write the hold varies from state to state. It's important so doctors can keep him safe, watch him closely, and rule out or treat agitated or threatening behavior and medical or substance abuse problems.

More Ways to Get Help

Besides involuntary hospitalization, there are other options for a patient who refuses treatment. The choices vary depending on where you live:

  • Outpatient commitment. When he gets out of the hospital, a court order requires him to stick with treatment or he will be sent back to the hospital. This is sometimes referred to as "assisted outpatient treatment," or AOT.
  • Conservatorship. The court gives a family member or guardian the right to make medical and legal decisions for the person with schizophrenia.
  • Assertive case management. A team of professionals will go to your loved one's house if he doesn't go to his appointments.
  • Advance directives. These are legal documents, written when a person is in a competent state of mind, that outline the treatment he wants if he later loses his capacity to make reasonable and informed health care decisions.
  • Court-ordered treatment. In some situations after a person has been arrested, a judge may offer him treatment in a residential program as an alternative to prison.
Reviewed on March 26, 2014

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