Involuntary commitment law changes get final passage

Involuntary commitment law changes get final passage

By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

The Alabama Senate on Thursday gave final passage to a bill changing the involuntary commitment process for people with mental health issues.

House Bill 70 by Rep. Rex Reynolds, R-Huntsville, says that in deciding to commit an individual, a probate judge could consider “the respondent’s actions occurring within the two-year period immediately preceding the hearing.”

It also expands the definition of “real and present danger” for involuntary commitments to include the risk that the individual may “cause, allow, or inflict serious bodily harm upon himself, herself, or another individual,” and “be unable to satisfy his or her need for nourishment, medical care, shelter, or self-protection so that there is a substantial likelihood of death, serious bodily harm, serious physical debilitation, serious mental debilitation, or life-threatening disease.”

The bill has been promoted by several mental health advocacy groups and probate judges.

“The passage of this legislation will expedite immediate critical care to those suffering from mental health illness,” Reynolds, a former Huntsville police chief, said. “It’s about decreasing interactions with law enforcement and increasing clinical care.”

The bill now goes to Gov. Kay Ivey for her signature.