What You Need to Know About Mental Health Law

Reviewed Oct 17, 2018

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Summary

Legal issues include:

  • Commitment
  • Advance directives
  • Programs to protect you
  • Disability rights

What you don’t know about the law can hurt you when you have a mental illness. You can be put in a hospital against your will. You can be denied the treatment that’s right for you. You need to know what the law can do to you. You also need to know how you can use the law to protect yourself.

Pay close attention to these legal issues:

Commitment. Every state has a process that could force you into the hospital. Most states also can force you to have care outside a hospital. The reason is usually that you are a danger to yourself or to others, or that you cannot care for yourself. Any adult can set the process in motion. It can be the police, a doctor or nurse, or a family member. You then have a right to a speedy hearing.

Be prepared. Learn about the law in your state. Contact your state’s agency for Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and Client Assistance Programs (CAP). These groups are set up under federal law to protect your rights. For a list of P&A/CAP agencies by state, go to www.ndrn.org/en/ndrn-member-agencies.html.

Advance directives. Here’s another way to be prepared: Write an advance directive. It’s a good way to make sure you get the treatment you need if you get sick. It can give someone “power of attorney” to make medical decisions for you. Or it can spell out the treatments you need if you’re in the hospital. You do not need a lawyer to draw up one of these. You can just write your instructions and give them to your doctor.

Programs to protect you. Each state has programs to protect your rights if you are under care. If you or someone you know is being abused or neglected in residential care, a PAIMI (Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness) can help. If you’re not in residential care, other programs may help. One is the Client Assistance Program (CAP). Another is the Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security (PABSS).

To find these programs, contact your state’s P&A organization (see the link above). You might also see if your state mental health agency can help. These are listed at http://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/locator/stateagencies.

Disability rights. Federal law bars discrimination against people with disabilities. Employers cannot fire you or deny you a job because of your illness. To find the agencies in your area that handle claims, go the link above for P&A/CAP agencies.
 
Resources

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has links to legal resources at www.nami.org/FAQ/Legal-Support-FAQ. Also see the list of its state chapters at www.nami.org/About-NAMI (under “Find Your Local NAMI”).

For more on P&A groups and other programs, see the National Disability Rights Network’s home page at www.ndrn.org/index.php. 

By Tom Gray

Summary

Legal issues include:

  • Commitment
  • Advance directives
  • Programs to protect you
  • Disability rights

What you don’t know about the law can hurt you when you have a mental illness. You can be put in a hospital against your will. You can be denied the treatment that’s right for you. You need to know what the law can do to you. You also need to know how you can use the law to protect yourself.

Pay close attention to these legal issues:

Commitment. Every state has a process that could force you into the hospital. Most states also can force you to have care outside a hospital. The reason is usually that you are a danger to yourself or to others, or that you cannot care for yourself. Any adult can set the process in motion. It can be the police, a doctor or nurse, or a family member. You then have a right to a speedy hearing.

Be prepared. Learn about the law in your state. Contact your state’s agency for Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and Client Assistance Programs (CAP). These groups are set up under federal law to protect your rights. For a list of P&A/CAP agencies by state, go to www.ndrn.org/en/ndrn-member-agencies.html.

Advance directives. Here’s another way to be prepared: Write an advance directive. It’s a good way to make sure you get the treatment you need if you get sick. It can give someone “power of attorney” to make medical decisions for you. Or it can spell out the treatments you need if you’re in the hospital. You do not need a lawyer to draw up one of these. You can just write your instructions and give them to your doctor.

Programs to protect you. Each state has programs to protect your rights if you are under care. If you or someone you know is being abused or neglected in residential care, a PAIMI (Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness) can help. If you’re not in residential care, other programs may help. One is the Client Assistance Program (CAP). Another is the Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security (PABSS).

To find these programs, contact your state’s P&A organization (see the link above). You might also see if your state mental health agency can help. These are listed at http://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/locator/stateagencies.

Disability rights. Federal law bars discrimination against people with disabilities. Employers cannot fire you or deny you a job because of your illness. To find the agencies in your area that handle claims, go the link above for P&A/CAP agencies.
 
Resources

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has links to legal resources at www.nami.org/FAQ/Legal-Support-FAQ. Also see the list of its state chapters at www.nami.org/About-NAMI (under “Find Your Local NAMI”).

For more on P&A groups and other programs, see the National Disability Rights Network’s home page at www.ndrn.org/index.php. 

By Tom Gray

Summary

Legal issues include:

  • Commitment
  • Advance directives
  • Programs to protect you
  • Disability rights

What you don’t know about the law can hurt you when you have a mental illness. You can be put in a hospital against your will. You can be denied the treatment that’s right for you. You need to know what the law can do to you. You also need to know how you can use the law to protect yourself.

Pay close attention to these legal issues:

Commitment. Every state has a process that could force you into the hospital. Most states also can force you to have care outside a hospital. The reason is usually that you are a danger to yourself or to others, or that you cannot care for yourself. Any adult can set the process in motion. It can be the police, a doctor or nurse, or a family member. You then have a right to a speedy hearing.

Be prepared. Learn about the law in your state. Contact your state’s agency for Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and Client Assistance Programs (CAP). These groups are set up under federal law to protect your rights. For a list of P&A/CAP agencies by state, go to www.ndrn.org/en/ndrn-member-agencies.html.

Advance directives. Here’s another way to be prepared: Write an advance directive. It’s a good way to make sure you get the treatment you need if you get sick. It can give someone “power of attorney” to make medical decisions for you. Or it can spell out the treatments you need if you’re in the hospital. You do not need a lawyer to draw up one of these. You can just write your instructions and give them to your doctor.

Programs to protect you. Each state has programs to protect your rights if you are under care. If you or someone you know is being abused or neglected in residential care, a PAIMI (Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness) can help. If you’re not in residential care, other programs may help. One is the Client Assistance Program (CAP). Another is the Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security (PABSS).

To find these programs, contact your state’s P&A organization (see the link above). You might also see if your state mental health agency can help. These are listed at http://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/locator/stateagencies.

Disability rights. Federal law bars discrimination against people with disabilities. Employers cannot fire you or deny you a job because of your illness. To find the agencies in your area that handle claims, go the link above for P&A/CAP agencies.
 
Resources

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has links to legal resources at www.nami.org/FAQ/Legal-Support-FAQ. Also see the list of its state chapters at www.nami.org/About-NAMI (under “Find Your Local NAMI”).

For more on P&A groups and other programs, see the National Disability Rights Network’s home page at www.ndrn.org/index.php. 

By Tom Gray

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