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There may come a time when the best treatment for your child or teen is in a psychiatric hospital. If your doctor or therapist recommends that your child goes into the hospital, and it is not a mental health emergency, there are several questions you should ask:

  • Are there any less restrictive therapies that can provide the same result?
  • What is the expected outcome of hospitalization?
  • How much will this cost? Will my insurance cover it? What out-of-pocket expenses will I be responsible for?
  • How will I be included in the treatment?
  • How will my child’s education continue while he’s in the hospital?
  • What recreational or social opportunities will be available for my child?
  • What are the visiting policies?
  • How will my child be transitioned out of the hospital back home?
  • Can special dietary problems be accommodated?

The prospect of a psychiatric hospitalization can be very traumatic for the entire family. Having the answers to some of these questions can help.

Involuntary Hospitalization

An involuntary hospitalization is a court order that orders a person to be hospitalized in an inpatient psychiatric facility. There are laws that regulate who and under what conditions a person can be committed to a hospital. In Colorado, an involuntary commitment may also be referred to as an M-1, or a 27 – 10. In order for a person to be involuntarily hospitalized, he or she must meet the Colorado Revised Statute, Article 10, Title 27 Care and Treatment of Mentally Ill definition of mentally ill. The statute defines someone as mentally ill if:
The person has a substantial disorder of cognitive, volitional or emotional processes that grossly impairs judgment or capacity to recognize reality or control behavior.

M-1 or Mental Health Hold

The actual Mental Health Hold (M-1) may be invoked when a person appears to be mentally ill and because of the mental illness, the person appears to be

  • An imminent danger to him or herself
  • An imminent danger to others
  • Gravely disabled.

In order to be classified as gravely disabled; a person has to meet one of the following two criteria:

  1. The person is in danger of serious physical harm due to his (or her) inability or failure to provide food, clothing, shelter, medical care or lacks judgment in management or resources or social relations to the extent that his health or safety is significantly endangered and lacks the capacity to understand this.

  2. His (or her) care and support by family members or other similar relationships is going to be terminated and the following conditions are present:
    • The person has chronic schizophrenia, affective, delusional or other disorder with psychotic features.
    • The person has been hospitalized in an inpatient setting at least two times in 36 months with periods of at least 30 days between admissions.
    • The person is exhibiting a deteriorating course of symptoms behavior substantially similar to those preceding hospitalization
    • The person is not receiving treatment essential to her health or safety.

Voluntary Hospitalization:

Colorado law provides that anyone who is 15 or older may seek treatment, with or without the consent of his or her parent or legal guardian. However, the person who provides treatment may, with or without the consent of someone who is 15 or older, advise the parent or legal guardian of the services the child needs or the services given.

A child who is younger than 15 who is seeking voluntary hospitalization must have an independent interview. The independent interviewer, who must be a professional person, will interview the minor and do a careful investigation. This investigation includes talking with the parent or legal guardian, school, associated agencies and others. Based on these interviews, the professional must determine that the minor is mentally ill and needs to go into the hospital. The professional also must determine that placing the minor in a less restrictive treatment setting/program is inappropriate, unavailable and that hospitalization will be helpful.

If the child is a ward of the Department of Social Services, (DSS) the child must have a Guardian Ad Litem or a petition to appoint one must be filed with the court.

For a minor who is 15 or older, his parent or his legal guardian may make an application for voluntary hospitalization. A minor who is older than 15, who has his parents or legal guardian’s consent and who also has the recommendation of a professional person doesn’t need an independent interview for voluntary hospitalization but the minor has to be advised of his right to refuse to sign an admission consent and his right to revoke the consent later.