Mental Inquest Warrant (MIW)
These guidelines are for Fayette County. Individuals not residing in Fayette County need to contact the local court house for guidelines specific to their county.
The criterion for involuntary hospitalization is that an individual is mentally ill and presents an imminent danger or threat of danger to self, or others. “Imminent danger” is defined as substantial physical harm including actions which deprive one of the basic means of survival including provisions for reasonable shelter, food, or clothing. If “imminent” criterion is not met the petition will not be granted.
To file a petition in Fayette County during office hours (Mon–Friday, 8:00 am–4:00 pm) go to the Fayette District Court building, located on 150 N Limestone Street, Room D-102. The phone number is 246‑2246. You will need to describe the behavior of the individual in writing so one is encouraged to document behavior as it happens. This documentation is what the judge uses to determine if the petition is accepted. You will also need to provide a date of birth or social security number to insure that authorities have the correct identity when locating the individual.
To file a petition during after-hours and week-ends one first has to go to Eastern State Hospital to obtain a petition form. The new Eastern State hospital is located on 1350 Bull Lea Road and is staffed 24 hours a day. Go to the main desk and request a form to file a mental inquest warrant. Next, bring the completed form to the Fayette District Court building. The main door of the building is open 24/7. You will sign the petition in front of a deputy and the deputy will then contact a District Court judge. The Judge reviews the petition and either grants or denies the petition. If granted the warrant is issued. An address for the respondent is needed, so when the Sheriff is phoned, the location of the respondent is known. The Sheriff will escort the individual to Eastern State hospital unless they are under the age of 18, in which case they may be brought to another hospital. Once the individual arrives at Eastern State they are evaluated by a mental health professional and a decision is made on whether to accept or deny the petition for admission.
There are no absolutes or predictability on who will be admitted. “Imminent danger” can be subjective and dependent on the mental health provider’s judgment. In addition, individuals may present in control of their self and deny allegations during an evaluation. This makes it difficult to obtain an accurate assessment.
Being declined for admission and treatment can be very disheartening to family members. This leaves them feeling helpless when their family member desperately needs treatment. The system and the laws focus on civil rights and not the hardship of the family or individual.
If the individual is denied admission and risk remains, one is advised to file a petition again. When mental health professional’s see a history of petitions this may influence a future assessment.
If a decision is made to admit the individual, one is held until a court hearing, which usually occurs on Tuesday. At this time the Judge determines if continued hospitalization is needed. An attorney will represent the respondent.
Every year since 1978 when the 202A law was initiated there has been an increase in MIW petitions filed.
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