Admission to North Mississippi State Hospital is primarily initiated through an involuntary committal process. Involuntary commitment is a legal process through which a person is court-ordered to a hospital or other facility for evaluation or treatment. The process begins in the Chancery Clerk’s office of the county where the person who is thought to be in need of psychiatric treatment lives. Any citizen of Mississippi can initiate the process by submitting a sworn statement requesting psychiatric treatment for that person. The statement must include strong evidence that the person is dangerous to him or herself or to others by reason of mental illness.
The Chancery Clerk’s office arranges for a pre-evaluation screening at the community mental health center and for an examination by two physicians or by one physician and a psychologist or nurse practitioner. The evaluation must be completed within twenty-four hours after the person is taken into custody.
After the evaluation, if necessary, the court orders a hearing within seven to ten days. The person has a right to be present at the hearing and to have an attorney. The court decides at this time whether commitment of the person is necessary. If inpatient treatment is ordered, the person is brought to North Mississippi State Hospital by the appropriate law enforcement officials when space is available.
If the NMSH treatment team determines that a patient is not in need of psychiatric care, the correspondent will be notified and the patient will be discharged. If the treatment team determines that the patient does need hospitalization, the patient remains at NMSH. Length of stay is determined by the treatment team, headed by a staff psychiatrist.
After the patient has been at NMSH for 20 days, the Chancery Clerk and the patient are given a 20-day notice. The patient has 60 days to request in writing a court hearing to discuss discharge. If a hearing is not requested, the patient remains at the hospital for further treatment. If a hearing is requested, it is held at the hospital, usually within 14 days of the request. The patient is represented by a court-appointed attorney unless the patient chooses to be represented by his or her attorney at his or her expense. A physician who has personally evaluated the patient’s case within the last ten days may testify regarding the patient’s need for continued treatment. If the Court finds that the patient no longer needs treatment, the patient will be discharged. If it is decided that further treatment is needed, the patient will remain at the hospital. The patient then has the right to appeal the Court’s decision. Any questions regarding 20-day hospitalization notices or hearings may be directed to the patient’s social worker.