Each state has specific rules determining when and how a person with a psychiatric disability can be hospitalized on an involuntary basis. In general, the goal is to offer treatment in the least restrictive setting that is safe and appropriate. This is not just a treatment philosophy but is backed by federal laws such as the Olmstead Act that seek to protect the individual’s constitutional rights.
Because of the variability between states, different processes need to be followed when seeking involuntary hospitalization. Because we’re talking about taking away a person’s freedom, even if for just a brief period, each state has written into law various safeguards that ensure multiple evaluations and sometimes even the involvement of a judge before an involuntary admission is approved. In most states, however, a physician has the ability to admit a person on an involuntary basis to a psychiatric ward or hospital.