Investigators' and Judges' Opinions About Civil Commitment

Western Mental Health Research Center, Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland 97201.
The Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law 02/1989; 17(1):15-24.
Source: PubMed


As part of our work with the Oregon Task Force on Civil Commitment, we surveyed the judges and commitment investigators involved in the state's involuntary treatment program. In Oregon the investigators recommend whether or not a commitment hearing should be held. These mental health professionals indicated that current confidentiality laws restrict their access to important information. The investigators also expressed concern about the lack of resources with which to divert clients out of the commitment system. Judges too felt that relaxing the rules of evidence would improve the quality of commitment hearings. Regarding changes in the system, investigators and judges indicated that outpatient treatment (including compliance with medications) should be required of committed patients. These professionals noted that involuntary outpatient treatment could only be enforced if the system included a mechanism for hospitalizing patients who were noncompliant. Although the investigators believed commitment criteria should be broadened so that their clients could receive treatment before becoming dangerous, judges did not generally endorse this view. We discuss the implications of these findings for new civil commitment legislation.

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