We have a cousin who was shot in the head several years ago, he survived but was diagnosed with schizophrenia. For years he carried his life on normally and had his own construction business. As of the last year he has became violent, does not sleep for days, will not come home and sleep on the streets, collects garbage, takes apart the house, and carries weapons. His wife moved out and she is scared for her safety as he calls her everyday yelling at her and makes up crazy stories. We have tried talking to him but he does not comprehend reality. What are our options? We are afraid he is going to hurt himself or someone else...he shows no signs of emotion even when his parents were in the hospital.
I am very sorry to hear about your situation. This can be an incredibly frustrating process. First, if anyone ever feels he poses an eminent danger or threat, you should contact the police immediately. It is more important that no one, including him, is injured, than avoiding police involvement. If he lives in King County, call the Crisis Clinic at 206-461-3222. A designated mental health provider should call back to speak to you about the situation and begin to investigate. The result could be involuntary commitment, but each situation is evaluated on a case by case basis and the legal standards for committing a person are very high. I'm going to include a link to the King County crisis and commitment services site so you can gather more information for you and your family. Please don't wait. Make the call as soon as possible.
The information provided in this answer does not create an attorney-client relationship and is not considered to be legal advice.
Ms. Bouffiou offers great information for you. If you and your family do not meet with success, you might consider talking to United Way or Catholic Community Services in Snohomish County (you don't need to be Catholic). Years ago, a gentleman had a meltdown (nonviolent), but he had long shown signs of paranoia and schizophrenia. His is the only case I have ever seen where within two weeks time social services were put into place, disability payments requested, and so forth. Sometimes, these agencies give you practical information which helps to move matters in the right direction; you might also get information on how the system works and what to do to protect your cousin and others around him. Does your cousin have a guardian? What are the chances that your cousin's physician would recommend commitment?
Before I respond to your inquiry, I must state that we have not spoken, I have not reviewed the relevant documents and facts, and I do not represent you. Therefore, my discussion below is not a legal opinion, but is informational only. Finally, my discussion applies only to issues to which Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey or Federal law apply, unless otherwise specified.
That being said, attorneys Bouffiou and Josephson gave you excellent advice. While people who are a danger to themselves or others can be involuntarily committed, you should consult with a guardianship attorney first to determine if obtaining guardianship is the best path to follow. Involuntary commitment proceedings can take power out of a family's hands and never return it.
/Christopher E. Ezold/
I am an attorney licensed in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the States of Delaware and New Jersey. My practice includes employment, business and health care law. Before I respond to your inquiry, I must state that we have not spoken, I have not reviewed the relevant documents and facts, and I do not represent you. Therefore, my discussion below is not a legal opinion, but is informational only. Finally, my discussion applies only to issues to which Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey or Federal law applies.
I would also recommend speaking with a guardianship attorney, but you need to understand that there are limits about what a guardian can and cannot do for an incapacitated person. A guardian is not able to force a person to live somewhere where they do not want to live, and really has no control over a person's individual decision making in the short term. The guardian is subject to the Court's direction, but this often involves time and money that the incapacitated person may not have.
If you are looking at commitment, you will most likely need to work with your cousin's medical team. You can refer to RCW 71.05 (http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=71.05) for more information.
The most important thing is to make sure that your cousin obtains the help he needs, and Ms. Bouffiou provided you with some very excellent information.
I wish you the very best of luck
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