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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 the family 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 for the purposes of getting an evaluation. 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 27-65. 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 "Person with a mental illness":

"Person with a mental illness" means a person with one or more substantial disorders of the cognitive, volitional, or emotional processes that grossly impairs judgment or capacity to recognize reality or to control behavior. Developmental disability is insufficient to either justify or exclude a finding of mental illness within the provisions of this article.

Mental Health Hold

The actual Mental Health Hold 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.

"Danger to self or others" means the person shows a serious risk of physical harm to themselves because they’ve made recent threats or attempts at suicide or have purposely harmed themselves.

"Danger others" means the person shows a serious risk of harming another person or persons, as the result of recent threats, homicidal or violent behavior, directed at another person(s).

"Gravely disabled" means a condition where a person, because of their mental illness, is not able to make decisions about or take care of their basic needs without a great deal of help from other people. Because they are unable to make these decisions, they are at risk of harming themselves or becoming seriously ill. A person of any age may be "gravely disabled", but the term does not apply to a person whose decision-making is limited because of a developmental disability

The mental health hold is only for 72 hours, and during the 72 hours, an assessment must be completed. After the assessment is completed, one of three things will happen to the person on a mental health hold:

  1. They will be discharged
  2. They will be given the chance to sign in voluntarily
  3. They will be placed on a short-term hold

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, inform the parent or legal guardian that the child is receiving services, or needs services.

A child who is younger than 15 who is seeking voluntary hospitalization must have an independent interview. The independent interviewer must be a professional person. They will interview the minor and do an assessment. This assessment includes talking with the parent or legal guardian, school, associated agencies and others. Based on these interviews, the professional will decide whether or not the minor is mentally ill and needs to go into the hospital. In order for the child to be admitted to the hospital on an involuntary status, the evaluation must show that:

  1. That the minor has a mental illness and is in need of hospitalization;
  2. That a less restrictive treatment is inappropriate or unavailable; and
  3. That hospitalization is likely to be beneficial.

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.

If you, as the parent, believe that being in the hospital is the best treatment for your child, you should encourage your child to sign in voluntarily. If your child is under age 15, you can sign them in voluntarily.