Good mental health is something we all aspire to have. Unfortunately, not everyone is afforded the same access to mental health services that many of us take for granted. That’s why it’s so important to understand mental health laws and patient rights. This article will explain the legal requirements that need to be adhered to, as well as the patient rights that have been established to protect those in need of mental health care.
1. What Are Mental Health Laws?
Mental health laws cover a wide range of legal topics, from patient rights to involuntary hospitalization. It is important for both patients and providers to be aware of their rights and obligations under the law.
As a patient, you have the right to:
- Receive dignified and appropriate care and treatment.
- Be treated with respect and not be discriminated against on the basis of your mental illness or any other characteristic.
- Be informed of your rights as a patient, the treatment/services being offered, and the risks involved with each.
- Insist on a second opinion by another mental health professional.
- Refuse treatment and leave the hospital against the advice of your healthcare provider.
- Make an advance directive and have it followed concerning your care.
- Have access to your medical records.
- Maintain some forms of contact with the outside world while in the hospital, with the exception of during an emergency.
Involuntary Care and Hospitalization
In certain circumstances, a person can be admitted against their will for mental health treatment, such as if they pose a danger to themselves or others. There are generally different types of involuntary care and hospitalization that can occur:
- Voluntary admission surrounds a willing admission to a mental health facility.
- Emergency detention is when a person is taken to a hospital or mental health facility without their consent if they are a danger to themselves or others. This can often be used in cases where a person has made an immediate threat or exhibited significant self-destructive behavior.
- Involuntary commitment is when a court orders a person to stay at a mental health facility if they are exhibiting behavior that could be dangerous.
These different types of involuntary care have different procedural steps that must be followed, and in some cases, a court hearing may be necessary. It is important to consult with an attorney to get more information about the specific laws for involuntary care and hospitalization in your state.
2. Understanding Patient Rights
When talking about mental health, it’s important to know and understand the laws related to the patient’s rights. Having knowledge of these laws can help protect mental health patients and better inform their treatment and care. Here is an overview of the topics related to mental health laws and patient rights.
- HIPAA: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects patients’ health information from being shared without the patient’s prior consent. This law also applies to mental health.
- Emergency Treatment: The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) requires hospitals to provide emergency medical treatment to anyone who needs it, regardless of an individual’s ability to pay.
- Discrimination: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) criminalizes the discrimination of people with mental disabilities, including mental illness.
- Access to Treatment: The Mental Health Parity Act ensures that health insurers are required to provide the same level of care for mental health treatment as other types of medical treatment.
- Involuntary Commitment: The Baker Act enables family members, friends, and guardians to initiate court proceedings to involuntarily commit someone who may be a danger to themselves or to others.
- Right to Refuse: Mental health patients also have the right to refuse any type of medication or treatment, and they can use certain mental health advance directives to make sure their wishes are honored if they are unable to communicate them.
It’s important for mental health patients and their families to be aware of their rights so that they can be better prepared to make informed decisions related to their health. Having an understanding of these laws can help ensure that patients’ rights are respected and their health is protected.
3. Impact of Mental Health Laws
Mental health laws have vastly transformed in the last few decades, leading to better patient rights and treatment. This section outlines a few areas in which laws can have an impact when it comes to principles of mental health.
Accessibility to Healthcare
- Mental health laws are integral in developing standards for accessibility of services within a given region. This can include reducing wait times and providing access to affordable care.
- By implementing clear requirements and laws, workspaces are better prepared to identify and provide the appropriate mental health services for their employees
Privacy & Confidentiality
- The level of privacy and confidentiality must be maintained and upheld within the space of mental health. Laws help dictate the boundaries that must be maintained.
- From a patient’s perspective, this is integral in terms of feeling secure and comfortable enough to open up to a healthcare provider.
Protection from Harm
- Mental health laws also provide protection from harm, both from a direct and indirect perspective. This includes disciplinary action for offending parties, as well as retribution for those affected.
- Institutions can use legal action to protect those involved, to ensure that professional and personal conduct uphold ethical standards.
- Advance directives provide a safeguard, allowing individuals to say no to certain treatments if they are ever deemed unfit to make decisions for themselves down the road.
- These directives are instrumental for those struggling with mental health, allowing them to manage their care on their own terms.
Mental health laws have had a significant impact on patient rights and quality of care. From access to confidential care, to protection from harm, to the importance of advance directives, laws are constantly playing an integral role in today’s mental health landscape.
4. The Value of Mental Health Laws
Mental health law ensures that vulnerable people are given the appropriate care they need, while also protecting them from any form of mistreatment. It directly affects mental health patients by giving them a number of rights which are enforceable by law.
- The right to be treated with dignity and respect
- The right to privacy
- The right to be informed of any treatment options
- The right to informed consent
- The right to refuse unwanted medical care
- The right to receive necessary care even if they do not have the financial resources to obtain it
Mental health laws also provide legal protections for those suffering from mental health issues. This includes civil commitment laws which allow for involuntary hospitalization of individuals that are deemed to be a danger to themselves or others due to mental illness. Although this step is an extreme measure, it is essential in order to protect individuals that are unable to take care of themselves or are at risk of self-destructive behavior.
Furthermore, mental health laws are also important in protecting the rights of those receiving mental health care in a variety of settings, including mental health clinics, hospitals, and residential facilities. This helps ensure that those receiving care are treated in a dignified manner, with respect and understanding of their condition. Additionally, mental health laws also provide recourse for those who believe they are not receiving the necessary care or being mistreated in any way.
Ultimately, mental health laws are essential in protecting the rights of people with mental health issues. They help ensure that those receiving care are treated properly, with respect and dignity. They also provide legal protection for vulnerable patients, allowing them to be hospitalized if necessary and receive the necessary care.
5. How to Access Mental Health Resources
Finding Mental Health Services:
- Check your insurance company to see if they have in-network mental health providers. Your provider should have a list of mental health service providers based on your location.
- Reach out to your primary care provider and ask for referrals or to suggest a mental health provider. Your primary care provider can answer your questions about mental health services and help you find the right professional for you.
- Speak to your employer about mental health services available. Employers often offer resources for mental health services, such as Employee Assistance Programs.
- Ask your friends and family about their recommendations. Sometimes your social network can provide you not only with recommendations for providers but also with emotional support.
- Consider a virtual therapy provider. There are now a host of online virtual therapy services that allow you to access mental health care in the comfort of your own home.
When seeking mental health services, it is important to know your rights as a patient. As a patient, you have the right to:
- Receive treatment with respect and dignity
- Have freedom from discrimination and unequal treatment
- Have privacy and confidentiality
- Be informed about proposed treatments, tests and procedures
- Have access to your medical records
- Know the costs associated with your treatments and medications
- Refuse or terminate services at any time
- Have an active role in decisions about treatment and care
- Express concerns or complaints and have them addressed
Understanding the laws and regulations that govern mental health services is important in finding the right professional for you and advocating for yourself. Knowing your rights ensures that you can access the care you need in a safe and respectful environment. Mental health laws differ from state to state, so be sure to research the laws and regulations that apply in your area. If you have questions or need help locating resources in your state, contact your local health department or mental health provider. Mental health laws exist to protect patients from harm, ensure they are treated fairly, and to provide them with certain rights. These laws, combined with advances in healthcare, have created a system that puts the patient first. Mental health laws are important to protecting the rights of those with mental health issues, and understanding them can help individuals get the care they need.