You have been involuntary hospitalized and you are wondering what your rights are and if you could have been mistreated.  This section will look into those questions and how to go about getting corrective action if you have been abused, or denied your rights without good cause. 

Q: What is a 5150?  

A: 5150 is a legal hold imposed on a person that is believed to be in need of involuntary psychiatric treatment in the state of California.  The person is believed to be a combination of 1 or more of the following:

  • A Danger to Self

  • A Danger to Others

  • Gravely Disabled

Once a police officer, or an individual that is 5150 certified has issued a 5150, the person will be taken to a psychiatric hospital and can be legally held for up to 72 hours.  During the first 24 hours of the 3-day hold (72 hours) the person must be evaluated by 2 psychiatric doctors to determined if admission to the hospital is necessary for further treatment.  If both doctors decide the patient is in need of further treatment he/she is admitted into the hospital.  Once the 72-hour period is up, the patient has a choice to remain voluntary.  If the patient decides not to stay voluntary, and the doctors (or a RN and a doctor) decides further treatment is necessary, the patient can  be Certified with a 5250 for involuntary treatment for up to an additional 14 days.

Q: Can a person be put into seclusion?  If so, on what grounds?

A: Yes, a person can be put into seclusion, but ONLY if it is an emergency AND if reasonable attempts to deescalate the situation has failed.  However, there are only 3 reasons a person can be put into seclusion and doing so is a denial of their rights.  

  • The patient poses a serious risk to self.

  • The patient poses a serious risk to others

  • The patient poses a serious risk to destroying community property.

Beware:  At this point it depends whether their rights were denied with, or without good cause.  Many times a patient will be put into seclusion for 'staff convenience' or as a 'punitive measure.'  Note these RED FLAGS:

  1. Time Out!  
    OK: A staffer can ask the patient if they would like to have a voluntary 'time out.'  If the patient agrees, the patient can stay in a room alone and MAY have the door open.  If the patient refuses, the staffer cannot MAKE the patient take a 'time out.'  
    NOT OK:

    1. A staffer that 'threatens' the patient with a mandatory time out.  There is NO law that makes provisions for a mandatory 'time out'.  It doesn't exist! Once the door is locked, it is officially seclusion and NOT time out. A person that is put into mandatory time out has been denied their rights WITHOUT good cause.  Many staffers are under the false impression they can MAKE a person take a time out.  This is absolutely false.

    2. A staffer puts a patient into seclusion for staff convenience (illegal).  For example, a patient may be wondering around on the unit and disoriented.  Staff has been known to place disoriented patients into locked door seclusion because it was to much of a hassle to watch them.  This is a denial of their rights without good cause.

    3. A staffer may threaten a patient with seclusion as a punitive measure to win a 'power-play.'  For example, a staffer may scream, "STEP BACK FROM THE RED LINE!" and the patient might react, "OR WHAT?"  And then the staffer may say, "OR YOU WILL GO INTO SECLUSION!"  This is clearly a punitive measure since the staffer did NOT try to deescalate the situation, but rather ESCALATED it and provoked the patient to 'react' in what may appear to be a hostile and bullying situation.  To place a patient into seclusion under these circumstances would be a denial of their rights without good cause.  

Up next: Restraints...


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