Nov. 6, 2013 — Finding options to care for family members who are beginning to lose the ability to look after themselves can be a difficult and confusing undertaking.
That's because the process for addressing mental illness concerns is markedly different from the one dealing with age-based diseases and developmental issues. Both have the same starting point, however.
Those who are concerned that a family member (or even an individual in their community) might have an acute mental illness can begin by filing a mental health petition with the county attorney's office.
The matter then is forwarded to the Circuit Court Judge, who ultimately approves or denies the request for intervention.
If the judge approves the petition, the individual in question is picked up and evaluated by a local mental health professional to determine if the person is indeed mentally ill and also if the individual needs to be involuntary hospitalized for his or her own safety.
If involuntary hospitalization is not found to be necessary, the person is typically released and allowed to go back about their normal daily life – sometimes with the need to take new medications.
Instances that involve alleged criminal activity are initially handled by law enforcement, but even then outside assistance of qualified mental health professionals is sought.
“Each situation is different but in general when an officer has reasonable grounds to believe an individual is mentally ill and presents a danger they shall be taken into custody and transported to a facility for evaluation by a qualified mental health professional,” said KSP Trooper Michael Murriell.
Some individuals, however, may not necessarily have a mental illness but are still unable to take care of themselves as a result of age-related degenerative diseases or developmental disabilities.
In such cases, it may be appropriate for a family member to petition the court for guardianship.