California Expands Use of Telehealth to Involuntary Commitment Evaluations

02 March 2021 Health Care Law Today Blog
Authors: Claire Marblestone

California recently passed legislation that allows evaluations and assessments for involuntary psychiatric holds to be conducted using telehealth technology. California’s Lanterman-Petris-Short Act authorizes the involuntary commitment and treatment of individuals with mental health disorders. If an individual is considered to be a danger to themselves or others as a result of a mental health disorder, the individual may be taken into custody for a period of up to 72 hours for assessment, evaluation, and crisis intervention. These 72 hour involuntary commitments are commonly referred to as “5150 holds,” in reference to the Welfare & Institutions Code Section authorizing the process. Counties designate certain general acute care hospitals, psychiatric hospitals and other health care facilities that can evaluate and assess 5150 patients.

Prior to admitting a person to a health care facility for treatment and evaluation pursuant to Section 5150, a physician, psychiatrist, or other qualified professional must assess the individual to determine the appropriateness of the involuntary detention. Until recently, the professional needed to conduct the assessment “in person.”

The new law provides that a 5150 assessment must be made “face-to-face,” but can be conducted “either in person or by synchronous interaction through a mode of telehealth that utilizes both audio and visual components.” The new law also clarifies that 5150 evaluations conducted using telehealth modalities are protected by existing laws that grant civil and criminal liability immunity to hospitals and licensed professionals in connection with 5150 evaluations.

The inclusion of telehealth technology as a way to evaluate and assess 5150 holds is indicative of the prevalence of telehealth technology as a modern form of health care delivery. The updates to the law will allow California hospitals to further integrate telehealth technology in their emergency departments, and may ease the burden on hospitals and professionals conducting these assessments. As this issue develops, other states may update their involuntary commitment laws to allow for the use of telehealth for similar psychiatric evaluations and assessments.

Foley is here to help you address the short- and long-term impacts in the wake of regulatory changes. We have the resources to help you navigate these and other important legal considerations related to business operations and industry-specific issues. Please reach out to Claire, your Foley relationship partner, or to our Health Care Practice Group with any questions.

This blog is made available by Foley & Lardner LLP (“Foley” or “the Firm”) for informational purposes only. It is not meant to convey the Firm’s legal position on behalf of any client, nor is it intended to convey specific legal advice. Any opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Foley & Lardner LLP, its partners, or its clients. Accordingly, do not act upon this information without seeking counsel from a licensed attorney. This blog is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Communicating with Foley through this website by email, blog post, or otherwise, does not create an attorney-client relationship for any legal matter. Therefore, any communication or material you transmit to Foley through this blog, whether by email, blog post or any other manner, will not be treated as confidential or proprietary. The information on this blog is published “AS IS” and is not guaranteed to be complete, accurate, and or up-to-date. Foley makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, as to the operation or content of the site. Foley expressly disclaims all other guarantees, warranties, conditions and representations of any kind, either express or implied, whether arising under any statute, law, commercial use or otherwise, including implied warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Foley or any of its partners, officers, employees, agents or affiliates be liable, directly or indirectly, under any theory of law (contract, tort, negligence or otherwise), to you or anyone else, for any claims, losses or damages, direct, indirect special, incidental, punitive or consequential, resulting from or occasioned by the creation, use of or reliance on this site (including information and other content) or any third party websites or the information, resources or material accessed through any such websites. In some jurisdictions, the contents of this blog may be considered Attorney Advertising. If applicable, please note that prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Photographs are for dramatization purposes only and may include models. Likenesses do not necessarily imply current client, partnership or employee status.