Civil Commitment and the Mental Health Care Continuum: Historical Trends and Principles for Law and Practice

SAMHSA logoThe Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration recently released the publication Civil Commitment and the Mental Health Care Continuum: Historical Trends and Principles for Law and Practice in its Evidence-Based Practices Resource Center. Involuntary civil commitment in the United States is a legal intervention by which a judge, or someone acting in a judicial capacity, may order that a person with symptoms of a serious mental illness, and meeting other specified criteria, be treated in a psychiatric hospital or receive supervised outpatient treatment for some period of time. State law, in every state, provides standards and procedures for commitment. As commitment laws and policies have evolved, public behavioral health care systems face new challenges in delivering mental health services under fiscally constrained circumstances. To meet these challenges in a shifting policy landscape, some guidance is needed to assist state policymakers and practitioners in reforming, implementing, and appropriately targeting commitment law and practice—both inpatient and outpatient—to the small proportion of adults who require and may benefit from its use.