What should I know about involuntary treatment for mental health and substance abuse issues?

Authored By: GeorgiaLegalAid.org
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Involuntary treatment

Involuntary treatment for mental illness and addiction in Georgia


What is involuntary treatment in Georgia?

There are times when a person can be ordered to undergo treatment for severe mental illness or addiction. This is called involuntary treatment. In Georgia, a person can only be sent for involuntary treatment in very serious situations. 


Before a person is ordered to undergo involuntary treatment, they must first be evaluated by doctors who agree there is reason for treatment. A person who is unwilling to be evaluated may be ordered to by the Probate Court. This is called an order to apprehend or involuntary commitment order. 


After an evaluation, involuntary treatment may only be mandated by a separate order from the court. The treatment can be inpatient or outpatient. Inpatient means the treatment will be done in a facility, like a hospital, where the person stays overnight. Outpatient means the treatment will be done in the community.

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When can a court order involuntary treatment?

For inpatient involuntary treatment, a person must:

  • Be in need of involuntary treatment AND

    • Be an imminent danger to self or others. There must be some acts or threats of violence to show this danger. OR

    • Be unable to care for their physical health and safety to a point where their life is in danger. 


For outpatient involuntary  treatment, a person must:

  • Require outpatient treatment in order to avoid becoming a danger, AND

  • Be unable to voluntarily get or follow outpatient treatment on their own. 

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What is the process for involuntary commitment and treatment?

Involuntary commitment. This is the first step towards involuntary treatment, where an individual is ordered to undergo an evaluation. 

  • There are three ways an individual might be ordered to undergo an involuntary evaluation:

    • Petition the court. Two people petition the probate court for an involuntary mental evaluation. This is called an Order to Apprehend. The petitioners may be anyone who has witnessed the individual’s behavior within 48 hours of the hearing date. 

    • 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. In some cases, a person can be taken for evaluation instead of being arrested. A person can be taken for evaluation by a law enforcement officer if:

      • The officer witnesses the person committing the crime, and 

      • The officer believes the person is mentally ill and should be taken for evaluation. 

  • If the judge issues an order to apprehend, the sheriff’s deputy takes the person to a hospital to be evaluated by a physician. 

  • The person is admitted to a hospital for up to 48 hours for an evaluation. 

  • If the doctor agrees that the patient is eligible for inpatient treatment, the person can be kept up to five more days in the hospital.


Involuntary treatment. If another doctor or psychologist and the chief medical officer believe that the person meets the criteria for further treatment, they will file a petition for involuntary treatment in the probate court.

  • A hearing must be held no sooner than ten and no later than 12 days after the filing. At the hearing there will be:

    • Two patient representatives. One can be chosen by the patient and one is chosen by the facility.

    • An attorney. If the patient does not have one, an attorney will be appointed.

  • If the court agrees that treatment is needed:

    • An inpatient treatment order can last up to six months.

    • An outpatient treatment order can last up to twelve months.

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What are a person’s rights in involuntary treatment?

If you are subject to involuntary treatment, you have rights. 

  • As soon as you get to the emergency facility, you must get written notice of your rights:

    • To petition for a writ of habeas corpus, 

    • To petition for a protective order,

    • That you have a right to the assistance of an attorney.

      • If you cannot pay for an attorney, one will be appointed for you.

  • You have the right to get notice of a treatment hearing.

  • You have the right to a full and fair hearing. You may waive the hearing.

  • You have the right to an attorney at your hearing. An attorney will be appointed if you do not have one.

  • You have the right to bring witnesses and question witnesses.

  • You have the right to exclude the public from your hearing. 

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Can I appeal a judge’s decision for involuntary treatment?

You can appeal a court order of involuntary treatment. Any appeal must be filed within 30 days of the order. 


In most counties, you should file an appeal in the Superior Court.

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Last Review and Update: Feb 27, 2023
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