To learn more about practices in the south and options for Mississippi, Families as Allies compared aspects of Mississippi’s civil commitment processes and laws to those in Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, Tennessee, and Louisiana.
In all of these states, including Mississippi, the commitment process starts similarly. Someone, often a family member or law enforcement officer, fills out paperwork that describes why a particular person seems dangerous to themselves or someone else due to mental illness. If a judge agrees, they issue an order for the person to be picked up, usually by law enforcement. In some states, a law enforcement officer can pick up someone without a judge’s order if they appear to be an imminent risk for harm due to a mental illness.
In all the states we examined, including Mississippi, the law instructs law enforcement to take the person for an assessment at a mental health facility. In all states except Mississippi, the person seems to stay in a mental health facility through all subsequent steps of the commitment process.
In Mississippi, the community mental health center does a pre-screening. If the pre-screening recommends committing the person to an institution, the law requires two medical professionals to examine that person within 48 hours. If those two professionals recommend commitment, the court schedules a hearing within 7 to 10 days. Mississippi law does not specify where the person stays during the professional examinations and while waiting for the hearing. This lack of clarity is likely contributing to people waiting in jail.
We looked at several commitment resources in different states. Below is a sample of those we looked at. It’s always possible we got something wrong. Please let us know if you notice any errors or if you have information that we missed.
- Hearing within three days, but can be hospitalized immediately in emergency Commitments for Mental Illness/Substance Abuse
- Committed to Healing: Involuntary Commitment Procedures
- Involuntary Commitment in Texas
- Mental Commitment, Civil Commitment, Involuntary Commitment Proceedings
Another difference in Mississippi is that state hospital directors tend to schedule admissions during business hours when the director determines a bed is available. State hospitals in other states typically accept admissions 24/7. That does not mean that beds are always available at those hospitals, but it may mean a person who needs care can get an available bed more quickly.