Attorney’s Office

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Commitments

There are people in our community who suffer from a mental illness or substance dependency and require treatment. However, because of their mental illness, the individuals are not aware of the fact that they need treatment. Family members, friends, care givers and/or individuals who have knowledge of the person’s actions may seek hospitalization for these individuals. Through the laws of the State of Iowa, the County Attorney’s Office has been given the responsibility of assisting in the involuntary hospitalization, of who have a mental illness and are seriously mentally ill.

The following facts need to be proven in order to involuntarily hospitalize individuals who are seriously mentally impaired or who suffer from a serious mental illness:

  1. The individual must suffer from a mental disease or disorder;
  2. As a result of the disease or disorder, the individual lacks sufficient judgment to make responsible decisions with respect to his/her hospitalization or treatment; and meet any of the following facts:
    • The individual is likely to physically injure themselves or others if allowed to remain at liberty without treatment, demonstrated through recent overt acts or threats.
    • The individual is likely to cause serious emotional injury to family members or others who lack reasonable opportunity to avoid contact with the individual, if the person with mental illness is allowed to remain at liberty without treatment; or
    • The individual is unable to satisfy their needs for food, clothing, shelter, or essential medical care so that it is likely that the person will suffer physical injury, physical debilitation or death.

The juvenile court has exclusive original jurisdiction of all proceedings concerning a child for whom an application for involuntary or voluntary hospitalization for mental illness has been filed. However, the juvenile court follows the same procedures that apply to adult proceedings. When a child is hospitalized for mental illness with the juvenile court’s approval over the child’s objection, the child’s family shall be included in counseling sessions offered during the child’s stay in the hospital when feasible. Prior to discharge of the child, the court may, after a hearing, order the child’s family to be evaluated and, if necessary, to therapy to facilitate the return of the child to the family setting.

If you have any questions concerning adult issues, please contact our office at (515) 286-3341.

If you have any questions concerning juvenile issues, please contact our office at (515) 286-2035.

Contact Us

Polk County Attorney's Office
Polk County Justice Center
222 Fifth Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50309

Phone: (515) 286-3737
Fax: (515) 286-3428