Involuntary commitment proceedings are initiated in one of three ways:

  1. A Statement of Emergency Detention by a law enforcement officer (most common)
    1. A law enforcement officer may take an individual into custody if the officer has cause to believe: 1) the individual is mentally ill, is drug dependent, or is developmentally disabled; 2) taking the person into custody is the least restrictive alternative appropriate to the person’s needs; and, 3) the individual evidences:

      1. Recent threat or attempt at suicide or serious bodily harm.

      2. Recent threat to do serious physical harm to others.

      3. Substantial probability of physical impairment or injury to self, based upon the individual’s impaired judgment.

      4. Substantial probability of death or serious physical injury due to individual’s inability to satisfy basic needs for nourishment, medical care, shelter or safety.

  2. A Statement of Emergency Detention by a treatment director
    1. If an individual has been voluntarily admitted to an approved treatment facility (such as NCHC), the treatment director may sign a statement of emergency detention and may detain, evaluate, diagnose and treat the individual according to the law if conditions exist for taking the individual into custody as described in 1.a.i-iv above.

  3. Three-Party Petition process:
    1. A written Petition for Examination alleging that the subject individual to be examined:

      1. Is mentally ill, drug dependent or developmentally disabled and is a proper subject for treatment; and,

      2. Is dangerous evidenced by behavior listed in 1.a.i-iv above. A 5th standard may be applied strictly in the case of mental illness:

        1. If the subject evidences an incapability of expressing or a substantial incapability of applying the understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of medication or treatment and the alternatives; and,

        2. Evidences a substantial probability(based on treatment history and recent acts/omissions) that the individual needs care or treatment to prevent further disability or deterioration; and,

        3. There is a substantial probability that if left untreated, the subject will lack services necessary for his/her health or safety and suffer severe mental, emotional, or physical harm that will result in the loss of the individual’s ability to function independently in the community or the loss of cognitive or volitional control over his/her thoughts or actions.

    2. Petition is signed by 3 adults, at least one of whom has personal knowledge of the conduct of the subject individual.

    3. Petition is reviewed by a judge, who then decides if enough probable cause exists to issue an order of detention.

Please note, the elements for an alcohol commitment are different.  Please see the attached forms for more information on each of the Three-Party Petition types.


The involuntary commitment process involves two court hearings:

  1. Probable Cause Hearing within 72 hours of detention.
    • Should the court order a Probable Cause Hearing, the subject will remain inpatient at North Central Health Care Center (or another facility as designated) until the time of the hearing.

    • The subject will be provided with an attorney from the Public Defender’s Office for the entire involuntary commitment process.

    • Treatment staff, law enforcement and/or witnesses present testimony to the court regarding their evaluation or observations of the subject.

      • In the case of a 3-Party Petition, all petitioners will be required to testify in court in front of the subject. All petitioners will be cross-examined by the subject’s attorney regarding the contents of the Petition.

If the court finds probable cause to believe the allegations in the Statement of Emergency Detention or the 3-Party Petition, the subject is routinely returned to the facility to be examined by court-appointed examiners and await a final hearing.

  1. Final Hearing within 14 days of detention.
    • Evaluating doctors, treatment staff, law enforcement and/or witnesses/petitioners present testimony to the court regarding their evaluation or observations of the subject.

      • Should the subject demand a jury trial, all treatment staff, evaluators, and witnesses/petitioners must be available for a full-day trial in order to provide testimony under oath.

    • After a final hearing, the subject may be committed for involuntary treatment up to six months.Commitment orders may be extended if properly petitioned by North Central Health Care Center.

      • North Central Health Care is designated by Marathon County to provide services and facilities for the prevention or amelioration of mental illness, developmental disabilities, alcoholism and drug abuse.

Please note: the law requires that persons be treated in the least restrictive treatment environment consistent with their needs.Therefore, subjects are often ready for release to outpatient care following this hearing.There is no minimum inpatient stay associated with this process.


If the matter is URGENT…
  • The law provides for Emergency Detention by law enforcement of persons alleged to be mentally ill where the subject poses a significant risk of dangerousness to self or others.

  • Should the subject threaten harm to him/herself or others, do not hesitate to call local law enforcement personnel by dialing 9-1-1 (in the case of an emergency), or you may click on this link for a listing of agencies within Marathon County. Please contact the jurisdiction in which the subject individual resides.