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Involuntary Psychiatric Hospitalization FAQs

Information for Petitioners, Family Members and Concerned Others

The psychiatric hospitalization of an individual against his or her will is a treatment option that is pursued only when all less restrictive treatment options have been exhausted or deemed unsuitable.


Taking away an individual’s personal freedom, even with the good intention of providing mental health treatment, is such a serious step that the Virginia legislature has established strict requirements that must be met before a person can be involuntarily hospitalized.


Notice: The information contained on this page is not intended as direct personal legal advice and is for informational purposes only. For legal advice related to your own situation, you should consult a lawyer.


What is an Emergency Custody Order (ECO)?

An ECO allows police to take someone from the community to a safe location for an evaluation to determine the best next steps. In our area, this is typically done at Augusta Health Emergency Department. If a police officer believes a person is unsafe and meets the criteria for an ECO, he or she can initiate an ECO on the spot and take the person to the emergency department.


Or, someone believes a person is unsafe can go to the nearest magistrate’s office where a magistrate will take testimony and issue an order if the criteria are met (see below). Police then would be dispatched to find the person, serve the order and take the person to the emergency department. If the evaluators find that the only way to ensure safety is admission to the hospital, they will petition the magistrate for a temporary detention order (TDO). Magistrates are available to issue a TDO every day of the year, 24 hours a day. You can reach the Augusta County Magistrate's Office at 540-245-5015.

What is a Temporary Detention Order (TDO)?

A Temporary Detention Order (TDO) is an order issued by a Magistrate that requires an individual to be held in a psychiatric facility for a period of 1 to 5 days until a commitment hearing is held. 

What criteria have to be met for the TDO to be issued?

To issue the TDO, the Magistrate, based on all the evidence readily available, must decide that the individual:

   1. has a mental illness and that there exists a substantial likelihood that, as a result of mental illness, the person will, in the near future:

      a. cause serious physical harm to himself or others as evidenced by recent behavior causing, attempting, or threatening harm and other relevant information, if any, or

      b. suffer serious harm due to his lack of capacity to protect himself from harm or to provide for his basic human needs, and

   2. is in need of hospitalization or treatment, and

   3. is unwilling to volunteer or incapable of volunteering for hospitalization or treatment.

Where is the individual hospitalized?

The individual may be admitted to Augusta Health (Crossroads) or another area hospital. 


Who is responsible for the cost of treatment?

VCSB charges for face-to-face services. However, no one will be turned away for an inability to pay. VCSB accepts Medicaid, Medicare and many private insurances.

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