Mental Health Conservatorship

For people with serious mental illness, conservatorships impose a set of rules and restrictions on them. They can be difficult to understand and incredibly frustrating for families of those affected.

A study of psychiatric hospitalizations found that homeless patients meeting the legal definition of grave disability are more likely to have a mental health conservatorship initiated during their stay. This can result in long stays in locked residential psychiatric facilities and often leads to unhoused discharge.

Inventory and Appraisal What is a Conservatorship?

A conservatorship is a legal term that gives one person the power to make decisions on behalf of another. It is a court-supervised process, and the individual under the conservatorship is known as the conservatoratee. A judge can only appoint a conservator if other less restrictive options don’t work. Conservatorships can take on a variety of forms and have many different responsibilities, but they all share the same purpose: to ensure that a mentally ill person receives appropriate treatment.

For people struggling with severe mental illness like schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder or bipolar disorder, a conservatorship can be the only way to force them into treatment and keep them safe. The conservatorship can give the person control of their life, including where they live and how they manage their finances. The conservatorship can also decide how much medication the person takes.

But a conservatorship is not without its problems. One major concern is that conservatorships can cause people to lose their civil rights. For example, an individual can be confined to a locked psychiatric facility for up to six months. This can happen if they’re a danger to themselves or others, are unresponsive to treatment, have severe agitation, are threatening suicide or are not taking their prescribed medications. In these situations, a peace officer can be called to transport them to treatment.

Another big problem with conservatorships is that they can be difficult to terminate. An individual must be able to prove to the court that they are no longer gravely disabled in order for their conservatorship to end. This can be a huge challenge for someone with a mental health condition who struggles to make positive choices in their everyday lives.

A solution is needed to this growing crisis. Last year, lawmakers passed a narrow five-year pilot program that makes it easier for counties like San Francisco to conserve homeless individuals with a mental health condition. But even with this law, each county interprets the rules differently. As a result, there is a backlog of individuals in jails waiting for a bed at state hospitals.

How does a Conservatorship Work?

Conservatorship is a legal process to determine whether someone suffering from mental illness is incapable of making their own financial and personal decisions. It involves a rigorous mental examination to confirm that the person is truly incapacitated and that there is not another way for them to get the help they need. Only then can a court approve a conservatorship. There are several duties that a conservator must take on and document carefully, including maintaining a detailed inventory of the person’s property, keeping accurate records of any money or assets they manage for their ward and filing an annual accounting with the court.

A conservatorship can be used to safeguard your loved one’s health and well-being. It can also give you the legal right to take action if your ward is in danger of harming themselves or others. For example, if your ward is wandering around the neighborhood with a knife or other dangerous weapon or threatening to hurt yourself or others, you should seek help immediately. This may include hospitalization or a 72-hour psychiatric hold.

The first step is to have a psychiatrist authorized by the county or state perform an LPS (Long-term Probation Services) conservatorship evaluation. A judge will then set a date for a hearing on the case. The person will be held in a hospital under the Temporary Conservatorship, known as T-Con, until that hearing.

During the T-Con, a conservator can request police transport to get your loved one to a treatment facility if they are in immediate danger of harming themselves or others. To do this, call the police and ask to speak with a watch commander. Politely explain the situation and your concerns. Provide them with a copy of the law and a written request for police transportation. It is important to remember that once you are named conservator, you must treat your ward with respect and compassion, but you must also be firm and follow the law. If your ward has any assets, such as checking accounts or savings accounts, you must keep these separate from your own and maintain complete, accurate records of all receipts and disbursements. You must also file an annual accounting of all expenses you incur as conservator for your ward.

Is a Conservatorship Necessary?

Mental health disorders can affect tens of millions of people, including children and young adults. Whether someone suffers from schizophrenia, severe bipolar disorder or another condition, the impact can be devastating and even life-threatening. In some cases, a person with a mental illness can be unable to care for themselves or make the necessary decisions about their living situation and health care. In this case, a judge can order the appointment of a conservator to manage their affairs and protect them from harming themselves or others.

The intersection of homelessness and mental illness is a growing issue for communities across California. The state faces a housing crisis and significant gaps in safety-net mental health services. Unfortunately, this combination often leads to prolonged hospitalizations for homeless people with grave mental disability. This can deplete the limited resources of psychiatric hospitals and leave them without the beds needed to stabilize individuals during an acute psychiatric crisis. A recent study found that patients who were homeless at the time of their psychiatric hospitalization were more likely to be unhoused upon discharge. The study found that psychiatric hospitals must spend substantial resources maintaining a stable placement for these individuals, even when they are fully able to be discharged. However, the placements do not guarantee that these patients will be connected with permanent housing upon discharge, and it may be too soon to determine if these individuals will remain housed in the long term (24).

Despite the many challenges, there are some ways to improve the system for homeless people with mental illnesses. For example, establishing expedited pathways to obtain community-based housing and treatment and expanding the availability of permanent supportive housing for people with serious mental disabilities can help reduce the need for psychiatric conservatorships. As for those who already find themselves under conservatorship, the solution may be as simple as giving them a chance to prove that they do not pose a danger to themselves or others before they can be released. Continuing to require a conservatorship for a mentally ill person sends the message that their wishes and well-being are irrelevant, which can lead to frustration and feelings of hopelessness. If you think you need a conservatorship lawyer, Click Here now to schedule a consultation. 

What Are the Benefits of a Conservatorship?

If your family member has severe mental health issues, he or she may be unable to manage the financial aspects of his or her life, even with the help of a professional. A conservatorship can give you the power to oversee the person’s personal and financial matters, including his or her finances. You can also request or deny medical treatment for the conservatee, even if the person objects. This includes psychiatric medications, which are sometimes necessary for people with severe mental illness. If the person you want to become a conservator of is already in an acute psychiatric hospital, you can ask the hospital to evaluate him or her for this purpose. In other cases, you can contact the county Department of Mental Health’s regional office that covers your area and ask for a conservatorship evaluation. The process typically involves a court hearing, during which the judge will carefully examine the evidence presented. He or she will assess whether the individual has the ability to make his or her own decisions, and if not, he or she will order a LPS conservatorship. LPS conservatorships are more restrictive than other forms of guardianship. In addition to limiting the powers of the conservator to handling only financial matters, the person who will be under the LPS conservatorship can’t legally drive.

Usually, the court will choose a family member as the conservator, if possible. The court will also consider other relatives, close friends and/or acquaintances if no family member can serve as conservator. If no one is available, the court will select a specially trained attorney who deals with these situations regularly. The conservatorship hearing will last about 30 days, during which the Public Guardian’s Office will act as investigator and temporary conservator of the person and estate. After the court decides on your petition, you will need to submit reports to the court.

The goal of a conservatorship is to interfere with the person’s independence as little as possible, interfering only when a health or safety issue arises. In some cases, less restrictive arrangements like a health care proxy or the establishment of a representative payee to manage government benefits may serve as adequate alternatives to a conservatorship.

For people with serious mental illness, conservatorships impose a set of rules and restrictions on them. They can be difficult to understand and incredibly frustrating for families of those affected. A study of psychiatric hospitalizations found that homeless patients meeting the legal definition of grave disability are more likely to have a mental health conservatorship…