Involuntary commitment an option for those who make detailed threats

Updated: Jun. 14, 2016 at 6:04 PM CDT
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MADISON COUNTY, AL (WAFF) - In Madison County, mental health professionals said if someone admits they specifically plan to do something dangerous, like shoot up a gay nightclub, that is grounds for involuntarily committing them to a state institution.

"You err on the side of safety. If you're unsure, you have them hospitalized. You force them to get the help they need by filing an involuntary commitment petition," said licensed professional counselor and Mental Health Expert Witness Tammy Leeth.

Legal proceedings can sound daunting but one Madison County attorney said the process is simple and anyone can do it.

"I get people in here that say, 'I'm not a relative, or I'm not a police officer, or I'm not a counselor.' But that's not a qualification of the statute. You just have to have observed or been around to see what this conduct is so that you can get on the preventative side," Madison County attorney Kim Brown said.

Getting someone committed would be a step that could save the lives of others as well as the person who gets treatment.

Leeth said even it's just idle talk there's no reason to take it lightly.

"These days, yes, you would take it seriously and say, 'This was a threat, you need to get some help'," Leeth said.

"Don't shy away from that process. Don't feel like you're penalizing or punishing someone because the commitment process is really about treatment. It's about getting the person the treatment they need to get them to stability," Brown said.

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