Moreover, an individual needs to be dangerous before intervention is possible. The state’s standard does not take into consideration an individual’s past psychiatric history, such as repeated hospitalizations or symptoms of psychiatric deterioration that could culminate in violence.
“Connecticut's civil commitment laws are among the most restrictive in the nation when it comes to getting help for a loved one in psychiatric crisis,” said Kristina Ragosta, senior legislative and policy counsel for the Treatment Advocacy Center in Arlington, Va., which pushes to make it easier to commit people for treatment before they become dangerous.
Connecticut does have a law allowing for someone to be sent to the hospital for 72 hours for evaluation if he or she poses a danger to himself or others, says Kate Mattias, executive director of the Connecticut branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Emergency mobile psychiatric services in hospitals – including one in Danbury, near Newtown – can come to a home or other location to bring someone into the hospital, she says. And after the 72 hours, if someone can demonstrate that he or she is a continued threat, a judge can order a 14-day stay, she says.
But Ms. Mattias's group and some other advocates oppose involuntary commitment because it “creates an adversary relationship that really poisons any relationship with providers, with caregivers,” she says. “This is one of the lingering fears that people who are living with mental illness have when you start to talk about involuntary commitment – you raise this specter of, ‘They’re going to put me away and throw away the key.’ ”