Mental Health Conservatorships
FAQ #1: What or who are the Conservatee and the Conservator in a Mental Health Conservatorship?
In a Mental Health Conservatorship, the terms "conservatee" and "conservator" are used to describe the individuals involved in the legal arrangement.
Conservatee: A conservatee refers to the person who is protected and cared for by the conservatorship. They are typically an adult who has been found by the court to lack the ability to manage their own personal and/or financial affairs. This lack of capacity might be due to various reasons, such as mental illness, dementia, an intellectual disability, or a physical condition that renders them unable to make informed decisions and care for themselves. The conservatee is the individual for whom a conservator is appointed to make decisions and provide support.
Conservator: A conservator is the individual or entity appointed by the court to act on behalf of the conservatee. The conservator assumes the role of the legal decision-maker, making choices related to the conservatee's personal, financial, and healthcare matters. They are responsible for protecting the conservatee's best interests, ensuring their well-being, and managing their assets and affairs.
The conservator may handle tasks such as managing the conservatee's finances, paying bills, making investments, arranging for medical care, and making decisions about where the conservatee will live. The conservator also is granted the ability to INVOLUNTARILY place the conservatee in a locked psychiatric facility. If the conservatee decompensates mentally and becomes an immediate harmful risk to themselves or others.
It is important to note that the court supervises the conservatorship and does require regular reports each year from the conservator to ensure that they are fulfilling their duties appropriately and in the conservatee's best interests. The court will also receive a report from the psychiatrist or psychologist treating the conservatee to assess the conservatee's condition and determine if any changes to the arrangement are necessary, from continuing the conservatorship for another year or finding that the conservatee is no longer "gravely disabled" and doesn't need the protection of the conservatorship..
FAQ #2: What is a Mental Health Conservatorship?
A mental health conservatorship, also known as a psychiatric conservatorship or LPS conservatorship (named after the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act in California), is a legal arrangement that allows for the involuntary treatment and care of individuals who suffer from severe mental health conditions. This type of conservatorship is typically implemented when someone has a serious mental illness and is unable to care for themselves or make informed decisions regarding their treatment and well-being.
A mental health conservatorship is established through a court process, which usually involves a formal petition by mental health professional. Mental health professionals who are directly involved in the treatment or care of the individual petitions the court to establish a mental health conservatorship if they believe it is necessary for the person's well-being and safety. The court thoroughly evaluates the evidence and considers medical opinions and recommendations to determine whether the person meets the legal criteria for a mental health conservatorship.
Once established, a mental health conservatorship grants a conservator or conservators the legal authority to make decisions on behalf of the conservatee related to their mental health treatment, medication, residence, and other significant life choices. The conservator is given the power to admit the individual INVOLUNTARILY to a psychiatric facility for evaluation or treatment, administer medication, and provide overall supervision and support. The goal of the conservatorship is to ensure that the individual receives necessary treatment, support, and protection for the betterment of their mental health.
Additionally, law enforcement officers or county officials, such as the Public Guardian's Office or the Office of the Public Conservator, may initiate a conservatorship if they believe the individual meets the criteria for grave disability or is unable to provide for their basic needs due to a mental health condition.
It's worth noting that the process for initiating a mental health conservatorship in California involves complex legal procedures, including filing a petition, providing evidence of incapacity, and obtaining court approval. The court ultimately determines whether a conservatorship is necessary and appoints a conservator to act on behalf of the mentally ill individual. Mental health conservatorships differ from probate conservatorships in that they primarily focus on mental health matters.
Mental health conservatorships generally have a shorter duration and are intended to provide temporary support until the individual's mental health improves to the point where they can regain control over their decisions and personal affairs. The court reviews the conservatorship each year to assess the individual's progress and determine if further legal intervention is necessary.
FAQ #3: What is the difference between a Mental Health Conservatorship and a Probate Conservatorship?
A probate conservatorship and a mental health conservatorship are two different legal arrangements pertaining to the care and management of an individual who is unable to make decisions or care for themselves due to incapacity. While both types of conservatorship serve a similar purpose, they are distinct in their focus and the circumstances under which they are established.
A probate conservatorship, also known as a conservatorship of the person or estate, is typically established when an adult lacks the capacity to make decisions or manage their personal and financial affairs. This could be due to aging, mental illness, developmental disabilities, or physical limitations. A probate conservatorship involves the appointment of a conservator by the court to assume responsibility for making medical, financial, and personal decisions on behalf of the incapacitated person.
A mental health conservatorship, on the other hand, is a specific type of conservatorship that applies to individuals with a serious mental illness and a history of being unwilling or unable to accept voluntary mental health treatment. A mental health conservatorship, also called a LPS conservatorship (named after the California law that governs it), is designed to provide intensive treatment, supervision, and support for the individual's mental health needs. It is typically initiated by a mental health professional or law enforcement when the person's mental health condition poses a danger to themselves or others.
In a mental health conservatorship, the conservator's authority primarily focuses on ensuring the individual receives necessary psychiatric treatment, medication, and supportive services for their mental health condition. The conservator may also make decisions related to housing, assistance programs, and other aspects of the person's well-being.
It's worth noting that the specific laws and procedures governing probate conservatorships and mental health conservatorships can vary across jurisdictions. The terminology and requirements may differ, and the processes involved in establishing and maintaining each type of conservatorship may have different legal considerations. It is important to understand the specific differences and implications of each type of conservatorship and where and when you would seek one over the other.
FAQ #4: Who usually becomes the Conservator in Mental Health Conservatorships?
In a mental health conservatorship, the usual individuals that the court may consider as conservators are typically family members or close friends of the person under conservatorship. These individuals are often chosen because they have a pre-existing relationship with the individual and are presumed to have their best interests at heart.
However, it's important to note that the specific selection of a conservator is determined on a case-by-case basis.
The court will typically evaluate the suitability of potential conservators based on factors such as their willingness and ability to take on the responsibilities of the role, their understanding of the person's needs, their availability to provide the required care and supervision, and their capacity to make informed decisions in the best interest of the person under conservatorship.
The court may also consider the preferences of the person themselves, if they are able to express their wishes.If there are no suitable family members or friends available or willing to serve as conservators, the court may appoint a professional conservator, a licensed fiduciary, or a representative from a public agency as an alternative option.
The primary objective is to find someone who is capable of acting in the best interest of the person under conservatorship and ensuring their well-being and access to necessary treatment and support.
FAQ #5: Do the Conservatees have to take medicine that makes them zombies?
In a mental health conservatorship, the decision to administer medication to a person is typically made by medical professionals in consultation with the conservator and in accordance with the person's treatment plan. The primary goal is to provide appropriate and necessary treatment to address the individual's mental health condition and improve their overall well-being.
The decision to use medications in mental health treatment is based on a thorough evaluation of the person's clinical history, symptoms, and the potential benefits and risks of medication. In a conservatorship, this decision is often made in collaboration with the person's treating psychiatrist or medical team, who consider their expert knowledge and expertise in prescribing medication for mental illnesses.
However, it's important to note that individuals in a mental health conservatorship still possess certain rights, including the right to participate in decisions about their treatment to the extent they are capable. In most cases, efforts are made to involve the person in discussions surrounding their treatment and medication, allowing them to provide input and express their concerns or preferences.
In some circumstances where an individual refuses necessary medication and poses a significant risk to themselves or others due to their mental health condition, the law authorizes the use of INVOLUNTARY medication as an important element if it is deemed in the person's best interest and after careful consideration of ethical and legal standards.
Ultimately, the administration of medication in a mental health conservatorship is a complex decision-making process that should prioritize the individual's well-being and involve input from medical professionals, the conservator, and where possible, the person themselves.