County mental health staff are responsible for conducting investigations into civil commitment requests when family or friends call for help with a loved one they think is suffering from a mental health crisis. The person conducting the investigation recommends a civil commitment hearing if they determine that someone is suffering from a mental illness and that that person is also a danger to themselves or others or unable to care for their own basic needs.
These criteria were adopted in Oregon in the early 1970s. Before that, it was relatively easy to have someone involuntarily committed to a mental institution and the practice was often abused. The debate about how to strike a balance between protecting patients’ rights and looking out for their wellbeing continues now, even decades later.
Does someone close to you suffer from a mental illness? Do you? Have you had experience with the civil commitment process? What was that like?
- Sally Fabre: Mother of a man who’s been diagnosed with schizophrenia
- Jean Dentinger: Program supervisor for the involuntary commitment unit of Multnomah County’s mental health and addiction services division
- RoAnna Savage: Daughter of a man who’s been diagnosed with schizophrenia
- David Oaks: Executive director of MindFreedom International and board member of the Oregon Consumer/Survivor Coalition