Q: Q: My 21-year-old daughter, who lives alone,
suffers from the effects of alcohol abuse. She refuses to get treatment, and I
fear for her safety. Is there any way to get her into treatment despite her refusal?
On March 22, 2012, Ohio Senate Bill 117 became effective. This law includes a
provision allowing a probate court to order involuntary treatment for a person
suffering from alcohol or other drug abuse, as long as certain procedures are
followed. A spouse, relative or guardian may initiate this proceeding.
Q: How would I go about asking the court to order treatment
for my daughter?
you would file a petition with the probate court and pay any fee that may be
charged for filing an affidavit saying you are seeking your daughter’s hospitalization.
Your petition must include certain information that must be verified by the
court, including a doctor’s statement about your daughter’s need for treatment (unless
she has refused to see a doctor about her condition). The law gives the probate
court “exclusive jurisdiction” to hear and determine such petitions. This means
that only the probate court can consider your petition, order treatment for
your daughter, and take other actions allowed by law regarding involuntary
treatment for someone suffering from alcohol or other drug abuse.
Q: What happens once the probate court receives my petition?
having received your petition and filing fee (if any), the court must examine
you under oath about what is included in your petition. After reviewing the
allegations in your petition, the court must decide if there is “probable
cause” to believe your daughter may reasonably benefit from treatment. If the
court finds probable cause, it will conduct a hearing to determine if there is
“clear and convincing evidence” that your daughter may reasonably benefit from
treatment. The court will also consider the recommendations of a qualified
health professional who has examined your daughter and can certify that she
meets the criteria for involuntary treatment.
If the health professional certifies to the court that my daughter should
receive involuntary treatment, what happens next?
If the probate court finds “by clear and convincing evidence” that your daughter
presents an “imminent threat of danger” to herself, her family or others, and
that she would reasonably benefit from treatment, the court may order your daughter
to be hospitalized for this treatment.
Q: Does my daughter
have any rights in this matter?
A: Yes. Your daughter has a right to legal counsel and to have
an independent expert evaluation of her physical and mental condition. Also, if
your daughter is hospitalized during the proceeding because the court finds
that she presents an “imminent threat of danger” to herself, her family, or
others, then the court must inform your daughter that she may immediately make
a reasonable number of phone calls or use other reasonable means to contact an
attorney (or someone who can help her secure legal counsel), a licensed
physician or a qualified health professional, or to get medical or psychological
help. Your daughter would receive help in making calls if she needs help and
asks for it.
Q: What if my daughter refuses
to be examined before the court hearing, or refuses to go to the hospital even
after the court has ordered it?
A: The law authorizes the probate court to issue a summons if
your daughter fails to attend an examination scheduled before the hearing. The
summons must be directed to your daughter and must command her to appear at a
particular time and place. The summons also will say that, if your daughter fails
to appear at the examination or the hospital, the court may order the sheriff
or any other peace officer to transport her to a hospital from a list the law
Q: Who decides which
hospital will take my daughter?
law requires each Ohio county’s board of alcohol, drug addiction and mental
health services to submit lists of certain specified hospitals to the clerk of
each county’s probate court at least once a year.
Q: Will information about my daughter’s involuntary
treatment be kept confidential?
A: Yes. Ohio laws regarding patient confidentiality, as well
civil rights and liberties, apply to a person who is ordered to undergo
treatment for alcohol and other drug abuse.
Q: Who is responsible for my daughter’s treatment
A: When you file a petition with the probate court, you must
also file a statement guaranteeing payment of the costs of any required
examinations of your daughter and the costs of any treatment ordered by the
This “Law You Can Use” column was prepared
by the Ohio State Bar Association. Articles appearing in this column are
intended to provide broad, general information about the law. Before applying
this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice
from an attorney.
Labels: drugs and alcohol, probate court, probate law