UNDERSTANDING THE ROLE OF THE POLICE AND PARENS PATRIAE POWERS IN INVOLUNTARY CIVIL COMMITMENT BEFORE AND AFTER HENDRICKS

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Abstract

This article explores the impact of Hendricks on states' efforts to obtain involuntary psychiatric commitments under their police and parens patriae powers. The author focuses on two issues: the nature of the mental impairment necessary for commitment and the role of treatment in justifying ongoing psychiatric confinement. With respect to the former, he argues that, even after Hendricks, impulse-control disorders may prove inadequate to detain individuals who neither pose a threat to physical safety nor are unable to provide for their basic needs. With regard to treatment, the author proposes an understanding of Hendricks' “presently available treatment” standard that would require states to focus, in good faith, on the needs of individual patients and to work towards the development of appropriate and effective treatment programs for all those who are involuntarily committed, irrespective of their present susceptibility to treatment.

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