In Colorado, an individual may be committed to substance use treatment if a judge orders it through the Involuntary Commitment process. This is considered a civil commitment and goes through the civil courts. If granted, a civil commitment is an order from the judge for the person to complete the treatment that is determine by the Office of Behavioral Health.
The Involuntary Commitment should be a last option reserved for individuals who meet the following:
- Refusing all forms of voluntary treatment.
- Is psychiatrically stable. (See FAQ below)
- Is an imminent risk to themselves or others as a direct result of their substance abuse.
- Is medically stable enough to be placed on an emergency commitment through a licensed detoxification center.
- When sober, the individual is likely to benefit from substance abuse treatment. (See FAQ below)
An involuntary commitment is a "due process" that goes through a court proceeding. This means that the individual that you are seeking a commitment for has the right to fight the proceeding and be appointed court counsel should they not be able to afford counsel.
Under the involuntary commitment process, a court order must be obtained first before the individual is placed into treatment. This means that the individual will likely be in a withdrawal management or detoxification program between 7-14 days upon starting this process.
Should the court order the individual under an involuntary commitment, they would be committed into the custody of the Office of Behavioral Health. At this point, the Office of Behavioral Health is not able to provide the petitioner or family information about the individual's treatment in accordance with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996).
We encourage all petitioners or family to follow up with the individual (and treatment program) under the commitment and participate in the individuals' treatment where appropriate. Please refer to our frequently asked questions below. You may also contact us below using our "contact us" email address.
A statute is a written law passed by a state legislature or the United States Congress. Statutes set forth general propositions of law that courts apply to specific situations. Colorado Senate Bill 20-007 combined what were previously separate alcohol and drug civil commitment statutes into one substance use statute, starting with Section 11 of the bill and ending with Section 27. We will link to the new combined statute once the updated statute is available online. However, the new combined statute is in effect now, so please reference SB 20-007Sections 11-27for the time being to read the substance use commitment statute.
- Substance Use Emergency Commitment
An individual can be placed and detained in a licensed detoxification program without the individual's consent for up to five days if an "Application for Emergency Commitment" is completed by a responsible person and approved by the detoxification program's administrator or designee. The person completing the application must be at least 18 years old, and must have actually observed the behavior of the individual they wish to commit to the detoxification program. This person becomes the applicant and must state in the application that the person whose commitment is being sought is either intoxicated (under the influence) or clearly dangerous to self and/or others or is incapacitated and clearly dangerous to self and/or others. The application must contain facts, statements, and information that support the alleged grounds for commitment.
If the licensed detoxification program's administrator or authorized designee determines that the grounds for commitment meet the necessary criteria for emergency commitment, the application is signed, dated and the time documented on the application. This documentation authorizes the emergency commitment period to begin. The individual is then committed, evaluated and treated, but not longer than five days. The emergency commitment is NOT a "five-day hold" since the program has the discretion to discharge the client from the emergency commitment and the detox program with a referral to voluntary treatment, if appropriate, sooner than five days.
If the program's administrator or authorized designee determines that the grounds for commitment do not exist, the application shall be denied. The individual whose commitment was being sought shall be encouraged by staff to seek voluntary treatment, if appropriate, and discharged from the program upon the individual's request.
For more information about the emergency commitment process, please contact a licensed detoxification program in your area.
- Substance Use Involuntary Commitment
Under the Involuntary Commitment Statutes, an individual could be committed to the care and custody of the Office of Behavioral Health for up to seven months. During this time, the individual is placed into a treatment program that is appropriate and likely to be beneficial based on staff evaluations. The Office monitors the progress and reports to the court as necessary.
The involuntary commitment is a legal proceeding that requires the documentation and filing of a petition. The involuntary commitment petition must be completed by persons that can provide clear and convincing evidence needed to prove to the court that the individual is abusing substances, dangerous to self and/or others, and/or incapacitated, and refuses voluntary treatment. Because this person is required to have direct observation and personal knowledge of the individual's substance use and must be able to testify in court, this person cannot have personal alcohol or drug issues. The legal proceeding is started while the individual is in a licensed detoxification program. This individual must also be placed on an emergency commitment.
No one can be committed because he or she is abusing substances. A threat or act of physical harm, or incapacitation to the point of inability to care for self that presents as dangerous to self/others is absolutely required before the court has the authority to deprive an individual of personal rights and place them under the custody of the Office of Behavioral Health.
Please contact a licensed detoxification program in your area or the Office of Behavioral at 303.866.7502 or firstname.lastname@example.org during regular business hours. Licensed detoxification programs are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- Emergency and Involuntary Commitment Forms
- Emergency and Involuntary Commitment Paperwork
- Emergency Commitment Process | English
- Emergency Commitment Application | English
- Considerations Before Pursuing Involuntary Commitment | English | Spanish
- Involuntary Commitment Petitioner Statement Guide | English | Spanish
- Involuntary Commitment Application | English | Spanish
- Patients Rights Form (English) | Word doc | PDF
- Frequently Asked Questions
What type of information is needed in order to file a commitment?
Per the statutes listed above, the person petitioning must be able to outline first-hand information (this is information that you have personally witnessed about the individual) that demonstrates the following:
- Show how the individual is an imminent risk to themselves or others due to their substance use or show how the individual is incapacitated due to the substance use.
- Demonstrate that there have been attempts recently to engage the individual in voluntary treatment and document (first-hand knowledge) that the individual is refusing treatment.
- The petitioner must be willing to testify to the above in court under oath.
How do I start the process to file for an involuntary commitment (IC) for someone?
You may fill out the inquiry form at the bottom of this page or call the IC message line at 303.866.7502. Please note that our office only operates during normal business hours. Please allow up to 24 hours for a return call.
The person I want to commit is in jail or has pending legal charges, can I still do this?
It is likely the answer is no. The district/county attorney offices will not file a case if an individual has a pending warrant or is in jail. Since this is a civil proceeding, the civil courts will defer to criminal courts in these cases. Families are encouraged to advocate to probation or the criminal court system to see if the individual can be court ordered to treatment under the criminal courts.
Who can file a petition to place someone on an Involuntary Commitment for Substance Use?
Anyone petitioning must fulfill the following requirements:
- Must be 18 years of age or older
- Must have direct or first-hand knowledge of the petitioning information.
- Must not have any outstanding legal/civil court issues or charges. (Example, a spouse can’t petition for a commitment against the other spouse if there’s a pending divorce or custody battle. In this example, the spouse would likely need another person with knowledge to petition.)
- Has not used alcohol or drugs with the individual they are seeking the commitment for.
Where will the committed person go for treatment?
Level of treatment placement is ultimately determined by the Office of Behavioral Health based on information and assessments gathered by the providers we work with.
How is treatment paid for?
The Office of Behavioral Health assists families in filing appropriate cases through the courts. When an individual is ordered to treatment, the Office of Behavioral Health determines appropriate levels of treatment based on the information that is provided to use by providers working with the individual. The Office of Behavioral Health recommends ordered treatment to programs that are licensed through our office. If an individual does not have insurance, these programs are required to provide a sliding fee scale based on ability to pay. The Office of Behavioral Health does not pay for treatment under this process.
Why do I have to go through the IC message line?
Our office works with cases from all 64 counties in the state of Colorado. We often experience very high call volumes. Additionally, our coordinators are often present for the court proceedings and coordinating treatment for those under commitment. Our IC message line allows us to track calls and return them as quickly as possible.
Are treatment programs locked?
There are no treatment programs that are locked under this process. People can and have eloped from court ordered treatment. If the individual that you’re seeking a commit for would likely run from an unlocked program, this may not be a good option for getting them help.
The person I would like to seek an IC for has severe mental health problems in addition to their drinking, can I seek this process?
All individuals who are placed under a substance abuse IC must be psychiatrically stabilized prior to being committed. The substance IC process is unable to order involuntary medications. If the individual needs this type of intervention, it would be best to seek resources under the mental health commitment laws.
How do I find a detoxification center/withdrawal management?
You may search for a detoxification center or withdrawal management center at www.colorado.gov/ladders.
Can I meet with a coordinator in person?
Unfortunately, due to the high volume of inquiries, our office is not able to accommodate in person appointments. Additionally, due to the nature of this court process, we are often off site at court hearings and not physically present at the Office of Behavioral Health. Please reach out to us by phone or with the contact submission at the bottom of the page.
What is an Emergency Commitment, how do I advocate to have someone placed on an Emergency Commitment?
Please click on the drop-down above on Substance Use Emergency Commitment that explains how an Emergency Commitment works and how to advocate for one if your loved one is hospitalized due to their substance use disorder.
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