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Mental Health

This information applies only to Illinois law. If your question is about someone who is not a resident of Illinois, we suggest that you contact a local or state bar association where that person lives.

Mental health law in Illinois is governed primarily by the Illinois Mental and Developmental Disabilities Code. The Code guarantees certain Constitutional rights and privileges for all who receive mental health services.

If you have a relative or friend who you believe is mentally ill and may need to be hospitalized, you should be aware that there are four ways in which a person may be admitted to a mental health facility under the Code.

  1. A person may be admitted by so called "informal admission." An informal admission to a mental health facility occurs when a person who is in need of mental health treatment is admitted to the facility upon his or her own request.
  2. An individual may be admitted under the so called "voluntary" admission to a facility. With voluntary admission to a mental health facility, an individual completes an application for treatment on behalf of himself or herself. Only a person 16 years of age or older may complete an application for voluntary admission.

    The primary difference between a person who is an informal admission and a person who is a voluntary admission is the length of time it would take for that person to be discharged from the facility. A person who is informally admitted would be discharged on the business day immediately after the day on which he or she requests to leave. A voluntary patient may be held for up to five days excluding Saturday, Sundays or holidays following the day on which he or she requests discharge.
  3. A person may be admitted to a hospital by "involuntary admission," which involves application by an "interested person" to have someone who is mentally ill admitted to a facility when he or she does not have the capacity to do so voluntarily and/or does not want to be admitted. Involuntary admission requires a certificate by a physician, clinical psychologist, social worker or nurse who is considered a "qualified examiner." The qualified examiner must determine that the individual is mentally ill and dangerous, or mentally ill and unable to care for himself or herself. The examination and certificate for purposes of an involuntary admission must take place no more than 72 hours before the time the individual is admitted to a mental health facility. In this case, both the applicant and the individual to be admitted must be 18 years of age or older.
  4. A person may be involuntarily admitted to a mental health facility by court order in emergency situations. This method should be pursued if a person exhibits harmful behavior to self and/or others. If you believe that there is a need for an emergency admission, you should contact the State's Attorney in your county. The Cook County State's Attorney's Mental Health Division is located at 28 North Clark, Suite 400. The telephone number is (312) 345-2433 during the week. For weekend emergencies, you can call (312) 890-3020 for assistance. If the situation requires action, the State's Attorney is authorized to request a court order which would allow the police to take a severely mental ill person to a facility. The person will be examined within 24 hours of the admission.

    If you have questions about any of the admission options presented on this tape, you may contact the Illinois Department of Mental Health or an attorney knowledgeable about mental health law for further details. The telephone number for the Department of Mental Health is (312) 814-4964. That number again is (312) 814-4964.

    If outpatient mental health treatment is necessary, there are a number of community mental health agencies in Chicago and adjoining counties which will provide mental health services on a sliding fee schedule. You can locate one of these agencies in the telephone book or by calling the Illinois Department of Mental Health Client Assistance Program. The Chicago number is (312) 814-4964. In Springfield the number is (217) 785-0623.

    If you believe that your friend or relative does not have the ability to manage his or her personal or financial affairs, you should consult an attorney to determine whether a guardian would be helpful or necessary. An attorney trained in the area will be able to take the necessary steps to have the court appoint a relative or other person to act as the guardian for the mentally ill individual. After a court hearing, the guardian will be authorized to manage the individual's financial and/or personal affairs under the supervision of the court.

    If there is no willing or available relative or friend to act as guardian, the Office of State Guardian or the Office of the Public Guardian of Cook County can serve as the guardian. The Office of State Guardian telephone number is (312) 793-5900. The office of the Cook County Public Guardian telephone number is (312) 609-5300. You can also obtain additional information about guardianships by listening to Dial-Law number 35.

    If you have questions regarding the rights of individuals receiving mental health or developmental disability's services, you may contact the Guardianship and Advocacy Commission at (312) 793-5900 or Equip for Equality at (312) 341-0022.