Voluntary and Involuntary Commitment

Assignment: Voluntary and Involuntary Commitment

PMHNPs may find themselves working in a wide variety of settings—each having their own
unique challenges and inherent legal issues. For instance, what do you do in your state of
practice when you are providing a therapy/treatment session and a client reports active suicidal
ideation? What do you do if you are covering inpatient psychiatric consults and are called to see
a patient in the ICU who overdosed on prescription medication requiring intubation? What do
you do if you are a PMHNP on an inpatient unit and a client who admitted themselves on a
voluntary basis suddenly states that they have decided to sign themselves out of the hospital so
that they can go home to kill themselves? These are just some of the legal questions that
PMHNPs must know the answers to specific to their state of licensure/practice.
In this Assignment, you investigate your state’s laws concerning voluntary and involuntary
commitment. You also analyze a case to determine if the client is eligible for involuntary
Scenario for Week 7 Case:
You are a PMHNP working in a large intercity hospital. You receive a call from the answering
service informing you that a “stat” consult has been ordered by one of the hospitalists in the ICU.
Upon arriving in the ICU, you learn that your consult is a 14 year old male who overdosed on
approximately 50 Benadryl (diphenhydramine hydrochloride) tablets in an apparent suicide
attempt. At the scene, a suicide note was found indicating that he wanted to die because his
girlfriend’s parents felt that their daughter was too young to be “dating.” The client stated in the
suicide note that he could not “live without her” and decided to take his own life. Although he
has been medically stabilized and admitted to the ICU, he has been refusing to talk with the
doctors or nurses. The hospital staff was finally able to get in touch with the clients parents
(using contact information retrieved from the 14 year old’s cell phone). Unbeknown to the
hospital staff, the parents are divorced, and both showed up at the hospital at approximately the
same time, each offering their own perspectives on what ought to be done. The client’s father is
demanding that the client be hospitalized because of the suicide, but his mother points out that he
does not have “physical custody” of the child. The client’s mother demands that the client be
discharged to home with her stating that her son’s actions were nothing more than a “stunt” and
“an attempt at manipulating the situation that he didn’t like.” The client’s mother then becomes
“nasty” and informs you that she works as a member of the clerical staff for the state board of
nursing, and if you fail to discharge her child “right now” she will make you “sorry.” How would
you proceed?
Learning Objectives
Students will:
 Evaluate clients for voluntary commitment
 Evaluate clients for involuntary commitment based on state laws

 Recommend actions for supporting parents of clients not eligible for involuntary
 Recommend actions for treating clients not eligible for involuntary commitment
To Prepare for this Practicum:
 Review the Learning Resources concerning voluntary and involuntary commitment.
 Read the Week 7 Scenario in your Learning Resources.
 Research your state’s laws concerning voluntary and involuntary commitment.
The Assignment (2–3 pages):
 Based on the scenario, would you recommend that the client be
voluntarily committed? Why or why not?
 Based on the laws in your state, would the client be eligible for
involuntary commitment? Explain why or why not.
 Did understanding the state laws confirm or challenge your initial
recommendation regarding involuntarily committing the client?
 If the client were not eligible for involuntary commitment, explain what
actions you may be able to take to support the parents for or against
voluntary commitment.
 If the client were not eligible for involuntary commitment, explain what
initial actions you may be able to take to begin treating the client.