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Bill, LCSW, Consultant, Expert Witness
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 3705
Experience:  35 years treating individuals, couples, families with mental health and substance abuse prob's
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What are the legal steps that must be taken for a Civil Commitment

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What are the legal steps that must be taken for a Civil Commitment of a pregnant 17-year-old in the state of Georgia? She is extremely mentally unstable at this time due to several reasons :

1) She's refusing to take her prescribed psychiatric medications that her doctor agreed would be safe during the pregnancy (the benefits for her own safety far outweighed the risks to the unborn baby.)

2) She suffers from Bipolar II with nonspecific mood disorder.

3) She self-mutilates through cutting, the most recent incident being two days ago, and a VERY severe one at that.

4) She is making threats to harm herself, others, and is completely irrational and inconsolable when we attempt to reason with her and calm her down.

5) She has a long history of mental illness and short term inpatient hospitalizations that have not been of any help; they get her out of that particular 'crisis', send her home, and her continued instability leads to the next 'crisis' very soon after her discharge.

6) Her behavior patterns are highly self destructive. She had just terminated a pregnancy in August of last year due to the effects of the pregnancy on both her mental and physical health, went through the grieving process of that, and knowing how it would affect her, got pregnant ON PURPOSE
again in November.

As her mother and only legal guardian I feel it is in her best interest to be hospitalized long term, but I need to know what steps I need to take so that she doesn't slip through the cracks and get sent home without getting the intensive help she desperately needs, giving her then the opportunity to run away out of fear, and harm herself or someone else.

Thanks very much in advance for your time and attention to this post.

Bill :

Hello- Thank you for asking the question. I have over 30 years of experience working with individuals, couples and families & am happy to reply.

Bill :

I am sorry to about this issue with you 17 yo daughter.

Bill :

Seeing that your daughter has an extensive history- I would guess that you are familiar with the Community Mental Health Center in your County.

Bill :

It is through the county mental health Center that you and another adult ( familiar with your daughters condition) can sigh a statement

Bill :

asking the court to have her committed for involuntary examination.

Bill :

Criteria for involuntary commitment in Georgia is :

For inpatient:

GA. CODE ANN. § 37-3-1(9.1). "Inpatient" means a person who is mentally ill and:


(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.

Bill :

If by chance you do not know or have the contact information for the Mental Health Center in the county (where your daughter resides)

Bill :

please respond with the name of the County and I will be happy to identify contact resources for you.

Bill :

Kindest regards,

Bill :


Bill and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Bill, thanks so much for your quick response!

Just to be sure that I have understood you correctly, could you please clarify for me the following :

1) Does the other person who signs the papers with me have to be a relative (immediate or otherwise), and

2) You made reference to both "involuntary commitment" AND "involuntary examination". - I want to be sure I have this right;

Do we first sign papers petitioning the court for "Involuntary Examination", where she will be taken to a facility and held for an initial standard 72 hour observation/evaluation period, following which the facility or the court will make a decision on whether or not to 'commit' her to Long-term facility care? Or can we, as witnesses to her dangerous behavior and state of mental health, achieve the much needed result of "Commitment" (Long-term) without her undergoing an 'Observation Period'?

I realize that I may sound like I'm pushing for a Long-term commitment here, with no other solution acceptable - I assure you that is NOT the case. Rather, I know well from previous experience that if given that 72 hour period of 'observation' she will tell the Doctors and other staff members exactly what she knows she needs to say to get herself discharged after that 72 hours. She has been successful in doing that several times; she is an EXPERT at manipulation. She panics over being unable to leave at will, and instead of focusing on getting the treatment she desperately needs, her focus becomes going home.

Bill, what I need to know is, is there a way to get around that 'observation /evaluation', (such as maybe bringing in her previous records when we go to sign the papers, or making a formal statement of events/occurrences along with the papers)?

I'm just going to be totally honest with you. I'm very frightened that if she gets released after the 72 hours, she will either run away from home and no one will be able to find her, or be so enraged as to harm herself or someone else in the family.


Once papers are signed- it has to be reviewed by a Judge who will then decide if the Criteria is met for her to be evaluated on a 72 hours basis.

She would be taken to the closest receiving facility in your Geographic area- i.e.

If you sen me the county in which you live I can give you the name of the facility.

I will be very honest with you, your daughter will have to meet criteria of imminent danger to self or others ( meaning if she was released from care) for her to be continued on a long term basis.

I used to work in Atlanta so I am familiar with the process- letting me know what county you live in will help me to help you better.

Kindest regards,


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