Legal Eagle Eye Newsletter for the Nursing Profession (7)3 Mar 99
Quick Summary: Admission to the hospital, not arrival in the emergency room, starts the clock running for a psychiatric examination and certification of need for involuntary mental health treatment.
A person coming voluntarily to the emergency room for mental health reasons is not being held involuntarily while waiting or being attended to in the emergency room. APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, 1998.
According to the Appellate Court of Illinois, it is admission to the psychiatric unit, not voluntary presentation in the emergency room, that starts the clock running (in Illinois for twenty-four hours) during which the patient must be seen by a mental health professional specified by law and certified for an involuntary hold for treatment or for further evaluation.
Out of respect for civil liberties in our society, the courts have said that anyone not seen and certified within the exact time specified by state law must be released, regardless of their condition or need for treatment or the need to protect others from harm. The time starts when the person is first involuntarily held. In Re Moore, 704 N.E. 2d 442 (Ill. App., 1998).