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Can You Legally Force Someone to Get Treatment?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

What do you do when someone you love refuses to get help for health, psychiatric, or addiction issues?

An upcoming episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians will focus on the Kardashian family's struggles to convince Rob Kardashian to get treatment for alleged drug abuse and depression. Despite their efforts to take Rob to several treatment facilities, he apparently refuses their help. In the show's preview, Khloe pleads with Rob to get help, but he seemingly rebuffs her exhortations.

This is a situation that many families can identify with. You may think that your loved one needs treatment, but legally, what can you do if he or she absolutely refuses?

5150 Hold

Often, there is not much that you can do. An adult is allowed to make his own decisions regarding medical treatments. Usually, you can't force someone to go to therapy or get psychiatric treatment. However, if you believe that your loved one may be a danger to himself or to others because of a mental condition, in California, for example, you may want to consider a 5150 hold.

A 5150 hold refers to Section 5150 of the California Welfare Institutions Code. The statute states, "When a person, as a result of a mental health disorder, is a danger to others, or to himself or herself, or gravely disabled, a peace officer...may, upon probable cause, take...the person into custody for a period of up to 72 hours for assessment, evaluation, and crisis intervention."

When the police or a doctor puts someone on 5150 hold, the person is taken to a hospital with mental health services for an evaluation. If, after 72 hours, doctors believe that the person's mental condition makes him gravely disabled or a danger to himself or others, the doctors may recommend a 5250 hold for 14 more days of intensive treatment.

Once those 14 days are over, the person is free to leave if he wants to.

LPS Conservatorship

Another possible avenue is to seek conservatorship of your troubled loved one.

Again using California as the example, an LPS conservatorship is a mental health conservatorship that makes one adult, the conservator, responsible for another mentally ill adult, the conservatee.

An LPS conservatorship is for people who are "gravely disabled as a result of mental illness," including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, clinical depression, or obsessive compulsive disorder. This is not an option for people with alcohol or drug addictions.

A conservator has the power to make medical decisions for the conservatee. The conservator can consent to mental health treatments, place the conservatee in a locked facility, or agree to the use of psychotropic drugs even if the conservatee disagrees, as long as a medical professional thinks the treatment is necessary.

LPS conservatorships only last one year, and a conservator must reapply each year to maintain the conservatorship.

While the 5150 hold and LPS conservatorship are California specific, other states may have similar measures. These are drastic measures that should only be pursued when absolutely necessary. Although it is frustrating and saddening, we usually can't force our loved ones to get help or treatment. Even if we could, the treatment would only be effective if our loved ones want to participate.

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