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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 117460
Experience:  JA Mentor -Attorney Labor/employment, corporate, sports law, admiralty/maritime and civil rights law
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No mental health treatment available at hospital, automatic

Customer Question

No mental health treatment available at hospital, so they automatically give you a 72 hour hold? Our local hospital closed the psychiatric unit.They no longer pay psychiatrists to be on call. They do not even allow any psychiatrists to have privileges at the hospital. This creates a situation where anyone presenting with ANY sort of mental health issue will be automatically put on a 72 hour hold, and involuntarily transported out of town to the nearest available facility. So someone walks into the ER expecting help, and the only option for the hospital is to force a person, against their will, into a prison-like facility, possibly receiving appropriate treatment. Or, as most often happens, they are held for the allowable amount of time paid by medicaid, then released without any actual treatment for their disease. How can you walk in a patient, and leave a prisoner with no access to legal aid, family, communication, advocacy etc.? Is it legal to turn a patient into a prisoner with at most minimal involvement from the medical and legal communities. In Colorado it only takes a nurse, a neighbor, to call the police to start a 72 hour hold. AT the hospital it is only a bachelor's educated social worker who determines your fate as a free person. How can this be legal? How can you advocate for these patients?

Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 4 years ago.
Thank you for your question. I look forward to working with you to provide you the information you are seeking.

Unfortunately, there is no CO law mandating any hospital have or maintain a psychiatric ward. Thus, where a hospital does not maintain such a ward, if a patient presents themselves showing a potential danger to themselves or others, then legally they can place the person on a mental health hold to move them to a facility for proper evaluation. It is not illegal and patients who have possible mental health issues would have to go to a hospital that does have proper facilities for mental health care.

The only way to advocate for this is a public campaign to get the hospital to open a mental health facility and embarrass them into doing so, as there are no CO laws mandating they have one any more than having any other type of specialty unit. A hospital has a legal duty to only provide emergency life saving care, but beyond that there are no laws stating what a hospital must provide care for.

The CO involuntary commitment law provides when a person can be involuntarily committed for evaluation for up to 72 hours without any warrant or court order or legal representation. To change this you would have to get the legislature to change the law I am afraid.

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Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thanks, great answer!


Is there any way I can access information detailing how many 72 hour holds one hospital has produced since the closure of their psych unit?

Is there any information that the hospital must make public? or any question that they could be compelled to answer?


I know from being a mental health advocate in town that there has been an astonishing number of people who have been taken from their home by the police in cuffs, spent whole days waiting in the ER to be sent somewhere that may be very remote from our location for three days of observation. People have been left to fend for themselves upon release, hundreds of miles from family or friends, with no money or transportation as a result of LUH's policies. People who were not a danger to themselves or others, but were depressed enough to need some sort of help - at most a referral to a psychiatrist. Not a full blown involuntary hold which often ruins their lives as they lose their jobs as a result of being disappeared for 3-4 days. You have civil rights in a mental facility only when they are granted to you as a result of producing desired behavior. I know people who have simply faked an improvement to avoid potential disasterous complications from electroshock administered involuntarily.


I feel like we're heading back into the dark ages.


How to get specific info from a hospital? Any suggestions?


Thanks again!

Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 4 years ago.
Thank you for your response.

I am afraid because of HIPAA, it is going to be difficult to get that type of information without some form of lawsuit and a subpoena. You would have to file suit first and then serve the hospital with a subpoena for the information, which is the only way to compel them.

The hospitals are very guarded of this information, so it is going to be tough to get without a suit and a battle proving that this information is necessary. Other than the lawsuit, the legislature can get the information through administrative subpoena as part of them examining the emergency commitment process.

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