Involuntary Treatment

Like every state, Kentucky has civil commitment laws that establish criteria for determining when court-ordered treatment is appropriate for individuals with severe mental illness who are too ill to obtain care voluntarily.  Legal actions involving involuntary hospitalization are initiated in the district court in the county where the mentally ill person resides or where they are present when the mental inquest warrant is taken out.

The Oldham County Attorney’s office has a duty to assist you and to represent the interest of the Commonwealth in a disability determination case.  The county attorney remains a neutral party to the proceeding, because many times, even family members do not agree.  Still, the county attorney can be an invaluable source of information for your family based on their past legal knowledge and practical experience.  In order to hospitalize a person against their will, strict criteria must be met.  No person shall be involuntarily hospitalized unless such person is a mentally ill person:

  1. Who presents a danger or threat of danger to self, family, or others as a result of the mental illness
  2. Who can reasonably benefit from treatment
  3. For whom hospitalization is the least restrictive alternative mode of treatment presently available.

Kentucky defines mentally ill person as a person with substantially impaired capacity to use control, judgment, or discretion in the conduct of the person’s affairs and social relations, associated with maladaptive behavior or recognized emotional symptoms where impaired capacity, maladaptive behavior, or emotional symptoms can be related to physiological, psychological or social factors.

“Danger” and “threat of danger to self, family, or others” means substantial physical harm or threat of substantial physical harm upon self, family or others, including actions which deprive self, family, or others of the basis means of survival including provision of reasonable shelter, food or clothing.  In practice, judges respond to dangers and threats that would result in the loss of human life.

The “least restrictive alternative mode of treatment” means the treatment which will give a mentally ill person a realistic opportunity to improve the person’s level of functioning consistent with accepted professional practice in the least confining setting available.

If you need assistance in filing a petition, contact the County Attorney’s Office at (502) 222-7342.