Effect of Delays in Civil Commitment Hearings on Outcomes Among Psychiatric Inpatients

J Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 2019 Dec;47(4):467-475. doi: 10.29158/JAAPL.003868-19. Epub 2019 Sep 16.


Patients admitted involuntarily to psychiatric hospitals may face waits of varying lengths before receiving civil commitment hearings. We aimed to assess the effects of the time spent awaiting a hearing on outcomes for such patients in a university health system, hypothesizing that patients with a longer prehearing length of stay (LOS) would also have increased LOS after their hearings. We included subjects who were admitted from January 1 through December 31, 2013, and had county court records of commitment hearings. Models for each outcome were constructed using generalized linear models to control for available confounding variables. 109 subjects were included in the analysis, 58 (53.2%) of whom had delayed commitment hearings (with prehearing LOS greater than seven days). The average posthearing LOS for the delayed group was 6.2 days greater. After controlling for covariates, prehearing LOS was statistically predictive of posthearing LOS, even after controlling for potential confounds. These results suggest that delays in involuntary civil commitment hearings for psychiatric inpatients are associated with extended posthearing LOS and extended total LOS, implying that LOS for involuntary patients could be improved by measures to increase the efficiency of commitment processes.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Commitment of Mentally Ill / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Psychiatric
  • Hospitals, University
  • Humans
  • Involuntary Commitment / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Judicial Role*
  • Length of Stay*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Statistical
  • Patient Discharge
  • Patient Readmission
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • United States / epidemiology