Sunday’s New York Times Magazine has an interesting article entitled When My Crazy Father Actually Lost His Mind. The article is a first hand account of the author and her family’s attempt to get her father committed during one of his Manic Episodes. The article addresses the biggest issue facing the legal system and our society at large. How to provide care for the seriously mentally ill and protect their civil liberties? Is there any such way to do this? Should we force people to take medication to protect themselves from suicide and/or their families from violence?
Several states have attempted to address this issue and Ohio currently has legislation pending. The Ohio law would change ORC § 5122.01 to clarify the court’s ability to court order out patient treatment. There many reasons for this law to be enacted not the least of which is to give families tools with which to protect their loved one from suicidial thoughts and actions. Further, the law will aid attorneys who represent the families by giving in them the ability to creatively address issues in the outpatient context. For more on the proposal, you can review the National Aliance for the Mentally Ill Ohio (NAMI Ohio) web page.
Such issues of client mental health and treatment touch the areas of family law, elder law, criminal law and juvenile law to name a few. As attorneys, it is necessary for us to be aware of the possible treatment options for our clients or family members if applicable. While maintaining a person’s civil liberties, this change will help assure medication compliance and aid families struggling to maintain care for a sick loved one.
What strikes me the most about the NY Times piece and the Ohio NAMI approach is that lawyers are the ones helping families get the treatment needed. The legal system needs more people willing to listen to families and the ill alike. Lawyers can create individualized solutions out of emotionaly difficult circumstances and the Ohio proposal goes a long way. The reality is that many of us deal with clients, family or colleagues when they are in the midst of a personal crisises daily. Knowing what to be alerted to and legal options available is important to the administration of justice and protection of all involved.