Understanding the 72-Hour Hold Laws: A Comprehensive Analysis (2024)

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Have you ever heard of the term “72-hour hold”? If not, it’s time to get familiar with this critical yet controversial legislation in the mental health sphere.

This law is designed as a protective measure for individuals who law enforcement officers perceive as a danger to themselves or others due to severe mental health conditions.

The Online Mental Health Reviews team is qualified to write about the 72-Hour Hold due to their extensive experience in the mental health field, including work in residential centers and as licensed counselors. We pair thorough research with a deep understanding of online mental health resources, ensuring useful content.

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Table of Contents

What is a 72-Hour Hold?

The “72-hour hold” law, often called an involuntary psychiatric hold, or 5150, is a legal procedure that allows mental health professionals to detain an individual for up to 72 hours for emergency psychiatric care, evaluation, and treatment without their consent.

This law was created to protect individuals experiencing acute mental health crises from causing harm to themselves or others. However, you should know that it’s possible to challenge a 72-hour hold.

The Criteria for a 72-Hour Hold

For a 72-hour hold, an individual must typically:

  1. Pose a serious threat of harm to themselves or others, or
  2. Be unable to provide for their basic personal needs due to mental illness.

The Bright Side: Pros of the 72-Hour Hold Law

Despite its controversial nature, several benefits are associated with the 72-hour hold law.

  1. Firstly, it serves as an immediate intervention during a crisis, potentially preventing self-harm or harm to others. For instance, someone suffering from severe depression with suicidal ideation may be placed under this hold, providing immediate medical care and reducing the risk of a tragic outcome.
  2. Secondly, the law can serve as a gateway to long-term help. Individuals placed under a 72-hour hold are evaluated by mental health professionals who can then recommend further treatment options, effectively connecting the person to the other mental health treatment resources they need.

The Dark Side: Cons of the 72-Hour Hold Law

However, like any law, the 72-hour hold has its drawbacks.

  1. One major criticism is that it infringes on an individual’s civil liberties, allowing for detention without their consent.
  2. There have been instances where the law has been misused, leading to unnecessary confinement. For example, misinterpreting a person’s behavior could unjustly land them under a 72-hour hold.
  3. Another drawback is the potential for trauma caused by involuntary hospitalization. Being detained unexpectedly for involuntary psychiatric care can be a distressing experience, potentially exacerbating the individual’s mental health issues rather than alleviating them.
  4. The costs of 5150s without insurance can be financially crippling.

Impact on Individuals and the Healthcare System

The effects of the treatment team being placed on a 72-hour hold can vary greatly between individuals.

While some might find the intervention helpful, others might find it traumatic or stigmatizing. The experience might deter them from seeking help voluntarily in the future.

The 72-hour emergency psychiatric hold law significantly strains resources regarding the mental healthcare system, which is why individuals cannot 5150 themselves. Hospitals often struggle to accommodate the influx of involuntary holds, leading to overcrowding and potentially compromising the quality of care provided.

A Brief History of Psychiatric Holds

Psychiatric holds have evolved:

  1. 19th Century: Asylums were the primary method of treatment. The mentally ill were often detained against their will.
  2. Mid-20th Century: The introduction of antipsychotic medications led to deinstitutionalization. Emphasis shifted towards outpatient treatment.
  3. Late 20th Century: Laws like the ‘72-hour hold‘ were introduced to balance patient rights with safety concerns. These laws allowed short-term involuntary hospitalization for those posing a danger to themselves or others.
  4. Today: Psychiatric holds remain a controversial yet vital part of mental healthcare, aiding immediate intervention during severe mental health crises.

Involuntary Psychiatric Hospitalization: What Happens During a 72-Hour Hold?

During a 72-hour hold, an individual is hospitalized for psychiatric evaluation and possible treatment. They’re monitored, assessed by medical professionals, and may receive immediate intervention for their mental health condition. This often involves medications for anxiety.

What Happens After 72 Hours?

Post the 72-hour hold, individuals are either released if deemed stable, voluntarily admitted to a psychiatric facility for further treatment, or involuntarily committed if they still pose a significant risk. However, you may be able to get out of a 5150 hold before the 72-hour time limit is up.

State Laws for 72-Hour Hold

Understanding the 72-Hour Hold Laws: A Comprehensive Analysis (3)

State laws vary. Some states allow practitioners to extend a hold without a court order. Here are additional resources to learn about state-specific 5150 laws:

  1. Psychiatry Online Article: Discusses the state laws on emergency holds for mental health stabilization. Access here
  2. NAMI Santa Clara Resource: Offers details about California’s involuntary treatment laws. Access here

What is law AB 1194?

AB 1194 is a California law that mandates the appointment of counsel in key conservatorship proceedings, such as petitions to establish or terminate. In case of 72-hour holds, a court-appointed conservator may be appointed if there is no guardian for minors or if the individual in question is incapable of representing themselves.

The Impact on Loved Ones: Why Can’t I Send and Receive Information About My Loved One?

Due to privacy laws like HIPAA, healthcare providers may be limited in sharing information about a patient’s mental health status, even with close family members not being able to visit, without the patient’s explicit permission.

For many parents, these circ*mstances are immensely perplexing, challenging, and stressful.

Members of our team are aware of how distressing these circ*mstances can be. Our suggestions are to:

  • Ensure your loved one has a cellphone with a charger in case they receive a 5150. You can continue to communicate in this manner throughout the coming days.
  • Ask the 5150 crew for a variety of phone numbers.
  • Ideally, you can consistently call several healthcare professionals to follow up.
  • Ensure you have a treatment strategy so you and your loved one can move forward clearly.

You may provide information about your loved one’s condition to healthcare providers. However, they may be unable to disclose any information to you without the patient’s consent due to privacy laws.

What is a Certification Review Hearing?

A Certification Review Hearing is a legal proceeding where a judge reviews the need for further involuntary psychiatric hospitalization after a 72-hour hold based on the individual’s mental health status.

Additional Resources on Mental Health Holds, See These Peer-Reviewed Articles

For a deeper understanding of 72-hour holds:

  1. Psychiatry Online: Discusses 72-hour hold limits across the US. Access here
  2. PubMed: Explores the reasonability of 72-hour psychiatric holds. Access here
  3. RAND Corporation: Evaluates the effectiveness of involuntary outpatient treatment. Access here

72-Hour Hold Conclusion

The 72-hour hold law undeniably plays a crucial role in our mental healthcare system. It has the potential to save lives during critical moments but also carries the risk of misuse and trauma.

As we continue to evolve in our understanding and treatment of a mental health crisis, it’s essential to reassess such laws regularly, ensuring they best serve the individuals they are designed to protect. After all, mental health care should be about compassion, understanding, and, most importantly, healing.

We welcome your thoughts and questions on the 72-Hour Hold, such as how much a 72 hour hold costs, or who pays for a 72 hour hold. Please feel free to leave a comment below. Additionally, if you have a suggestion for a mental health service, app, or course that you’d like our Online Mental Health Reviews team to explore next, we’d love to hear from you in the comments section.

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If You’re In An Emergency

If you’re experiencing a crisis, waiting for an online therapy session might not be practical. In such urgent situations, dial 911 immediately. This includes scenarios where you or someone else may be at risk of harm. If thoughts of self-harm are present, reach out to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by simply dialing 988 – they’re available 24/7.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides a free, confidential helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357) for those struggling with mental health or substance abuse disorders. They offer round-the-clock assistance, including treatment referrals and information, every day of the year.

Understanding the 72-Hour Hold Laws: A Comprehensive Analysis (2024)


What happens after a 72-hour psych hold in California? ›

If you are held beyond 72 hours, you have the right to remain in the hospital for voluntary treatment. If you do not want to stay voluntarily, the facility where you are staying will conduct a certification review hearing within four days of the end of your 72-hour hold.

Does a 5250 go on your record? ›

Will a 5250 Show Up on a Background Check? Like a 5150, a 5250 is not classified as a criminal conviction. This mental health hold may require you to stay at a mental health treatment facility for up to 14 days. Regardless of how long the hold lasts, it will not show up on your background check.

How do I get out of involuntary commitment in Iowa? ›

A person who has been committed has the right to ask to be released. To do this, a paper is filed with the court. This paper is called, “A Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus.” When the paper is filed, the court should schedule a hearing. At the hearing, the court will consider whether the person should be released.

What are 3 ways in Georgia for having an involuntary admission authorized? ›

What is the process for involuntary commitment and treatment?
  • Petition the court. Two people petition the probate court for an involuntary mental evaluation. ...
  • Doctor's request. A doctor who believes a person should be evaluated may sign a 1013 Request Form and submit it to the probate court.
  • Law enforcement.

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