Civil Commitment

2411 Martin Luther  King Jr. Blvd Eugene, OR 97401

Main Phone
(541) 682-3608

(541) 682-3276

Office Hours

8:00 am—5:00 pm
(Except holidays)


Mary Beth James, LMFT
Clinical Supervisor


Commitment Investigators:
Cynthia Jordan, LMFT
Sarah Pruett, LPC
Rustie Anderson, LCSW

Post Commitment Liaison:
Heather Thorn, LCSW

Civil Commitment is Not a Crisis Service
If your loved one or a community member is in crisis, please reach out to a crisis responder.

What is a Civil Commitment?

A civil commitment is a process in which a judge decides whether a person alleged to be mentally ill should be involuntarily hospitalized or treated for their mental illness. A civil commitment for mental illness is often not appropriate in cases that involve behaviors tied to drug use or neurological issues as possible explanations.

Who Qualifies for a Civil Commitment?

A person can be committed if the judge finds that the person has a mental illness, and because of that mental illness the person is:

  • In immediate danger of harming themselves or others or unable to care for their basic needs to the extent it will cause them serious bodily harm.


  • Is not willing or able to voluntarily participate in treatment.

What is the Process for Civil Commitment?

Civil Commitments can include a suspension of an individual’s civil liberties without them committing a crime. For these reasons there are few mechanisms for initiating a civil commitment investigation available to the public. Two people may initiate an investigation by filing a petition describing the allegedly mentally ill individual’s symptoms and behavior, but this does not guarantee the person will be brought forward for a hearing.

Custody and Holds: During the civil commitment process, the allegedly mentally ill person may be held involuntarily prior to a civil commitment to receive care at a hospital.

  • A police officer may find a person in the community and have probable cause that the person is immediately dangerous to themselves or others due to a mental illness. The police officer may take custody of the person to transport them to an emergency care facility.

  • A medical doctor may hold a person to evaluate if that person is immediately dangerous to themselves or others and is in immediate need of treatment for their mental illness.

  • A judge can order a hold on an allegedly mentally ill person in certain circumstances. The judge has the authority to order a precommitment hold on a person longer than 5 days if needed until a hearing can be held.

Lane County Behavioral Health Investigator’s Role:

Custodies and holds as described above initiate a civil commitment investigation. Timelines for an investigation depend on the type of initial hold.  The investigator may interview the allegedly mentally ill person, family members, treatment providers, and other people that know the allegedly mentally ill person, in order to determine if a commitment hearing will be recommended. Once the investigation is completed, the investigator may recommend a civil commitment hearing. A judge can still hold a civil commitment hearing even if the investigator does not recommend one at the conclusion of the investigation.

Civil Commitment Hearing: If the investigator determines that a person may meet the criteria for civil commitment, the investigator will request a commitment hearing in front of a judge. This is a closed proceeding and if a person is going to be asked to testify, they may be contacted by the both the civil commitment investigator and the attorney representing the County. The judge makes the ultimate determination of whether a person is civilly committed. If the judge finds that the person does not meet the criteria for civil commitment, the judge will dismiss the case. If the judge determines a person meets the criteria to be civilly committed, the person will receive a judgment committing them to the Oregon Health Authority for up to 180 days.  This legal judgment does not guarantee specific treatment or placement as that will be determined in conjunction with their provider. Should information be received indicating that the individual may no longer be appropriate for commitment, they may be discharged prior to the end of the 180 days.

Other Outcomes

Diversion: An investigator may certify a mentally ill person for a 14-day diversion period of intensive treatment prior to a commitment hearing.  During the Diversion, if the person agrees to the treatment, the person can be held at a facility for up to 14 days to receive care. An investigator for the County may recommend a hearing at any point during the diversion process if it is deemed necessary.

Trial Visits:
If a person is committed, a judge may order a trial visit. A trial visit is when the person is released back into the community with conditions that the judge imposes. If the person breaks the conditions, such as not taking medication, another hearing may be called to determine if the person needs a change of conditions or involuntary care.

Guardianship can be an alternative to a civil commitment and is separate from the civil commitment process. If you have any questions regarding potential guardianship, contact an attorney.

If you have questions
about the legal process of Commitment or your loved one’s (or your own) rights, please contact an attorney.  Lane County staff cannot offer legal advice to the public.