Mental Illness and the Probate Court

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Sean Michael Peoples, partner at Brown Paindiris & Scott, LLP

Individuals may petition the Probate Court to involuntarily commit a gravely disabled person or a person at serious risk of harming him or herself or others. A gravely disabled person is one who is unable to address basic human needs, such as securing food, shelter, safety and medical attention, and could be seriously hurt as a result.

Once the Probate Court receives an involuntary commitment petition, the Court will appoint an attorney for the disabled or mentally ill person and two doctors will examine the person. A hearing will be held in the Probate Court ten days after the petition is filed.

The police, a doctor or the Probate Court may also order that a person be examined at a hospital. If a doctor determines that the person is in need of immediate care, the doctor can execute an emergency certificate authorizing the involuntary commitment of an individual for up to 15 days without a court order.

Upon request by a psychiatric hospital, the Probate Court may also authorize medical personnel to administer medication and treatment of a hospitalized patient who is unable to consent on his or her own. In this situation, the Probate Court can appoint a conservator, who is a person that will make the decision on the patient's behalf. A patient capable of giving informed consent might still refuse important medication. In this situation, the Probate Court may order that the patient be given the medication, provided that the patient's illness could cause direct harm to others and there is no less invasive way to treat the patient.

If you have any questions, please contact the Glastonbury-Hebron Probate Court, located at 2143 Main Street in Glastonbury. The Court's hours of operation are Monday - Friday 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Tuesdays, 8:30 a.m. - 7:00 p.m. Telephone: (860) 652-7629.