What Is New York’s Mental Hygiene Law?

What Is New York’s Mental Hygiene Law?

New York state passed the Mental Hygiene Law in 1972, creating a broad legal framework to address the needs and rights of the mentally disabled and incapacitated, as well as public concerns. The NY Mental Hygiene Law was designed to help mentally disabled or otherwise incapacitated persons obtain individualized care, while still recognizing their right to make their own decisions about their well-being.

New York State’s Mental Hygiene Law Explained

The mental hygiene law outlines when people with severe mental illness may be admitted to a hospital for treatment. The circumstances include:

  • Voluntary – A person with mental illness seeking treatment may apply for admission to a hospital on their own. Doctors will then evaluate them to ensure they meet the voluntary admission standard. They may leave when they want, as long as they notify the hospital in writing. However, the hospital director may object via court order.
  • Informal – Like voluntary admission, a person with a mental health condition can orally request treatment at a hospital. Doctors will evaluate them to confirm that they meet the standard for informal admission. The patient may leave the hospital whenever they choose.
  • Involuntary – There are two types of involuntary admissions processes. If a person’s mental illness seriously impacts their well-being, incapacitates them, or makes them a danger to society, they may be admitted. The first process begins with an application for admission from one of 11 specified persons or entities. Two medical doctors must certify the requirement for involuntary admission. A psychiatrist will then evaluate them at the hospital. The patient may be held for up to 60 days, and the hospital director may apply for a court order to hold the patient longer.

Likewise, a Director of Community Services may also apply for a patient’s involuntary admission if their mental health condition is so severe that they are likely to harm themselves or others. A doctor at the hospital would evaluate the patient, and a psychiatrist would confirm the patient’s mental evaluation within 72 hours after admission. The patient may be held for up to 60 days, or longer with the application for a court order.

  • Emergency – If a person with mental illness is at risk of seriously harming themselves or others, several parties may have them admitted without submitting an application. A doctor would evaluate the patient at the hospital, and a psychiatrist would confirm the patient’s eligibility for emergency admission within 48 hours of admission. The patient can be held for up to 15 days, provided they meet the involuntary admission standard. However, this may be extended voluntarily or involuntarily if needed.

Guardianship for Incapacitated People Under NY’s Mental Hygiene Law Article 81

As part of NY’s Mental Hygiene Law, the court may appoint a guardian for the incapacitated person to help them manage their financial and personal matters if they cannot do so themselves. It is the court’s goal to allow the incapacitated person as much independence as possible in making their own decisions. However, if the incapacitated person can’t make decisions regarding their affairs, the court may be petitioned to appoint a guardian to manage them.

Anyone can petition the court, which will evaluate the incapacitated person’s case to determine if they need a guardian. The court will then decide who to appoint as guardian and the scope of their legal powers.

Talk to Our Experienced Elder Law Attorneys in Manhattan Today

If you are concerned about your elder family member’s well-being or have questions about how NY’s Mental Hygiene Law may be used to help them, contact Chaves Perlowitz Luftig LLP today. We can help you understand your options to provide the best care possible to your loved one and help you navigate the legal process.

Call us or contact us online for a free consultation.

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