Voluntary Patient Rights

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This handout explains your rights when seeking voluntary inpatient mental health treatment.

Who can request voluntary admission to an inpatient mental health facility?

  • A person 16 years of age or older
  • A parent, managing conservator or guardian of a person younger than 18

A parent, managing conservator or guardian of a person younger than 18 may request admission even if the prospective patient does not consent. Youth in foster care can be voluntarily admitted, but must have a mental illness or demonstrate symptoms of a serious emotional disorder and present a risk of serious harm to self or others if not immediately restrained or hospitalized.

What are my rights generally as a voluntary patient?

When you seek voluntary admission to an inpatient mental health facility, you may not be able to leave the facility, even if you change your mind. In certain situations, the facility may file an application for court-ordered mental health services, even if you initially came to them voluntarily.

As a voluntary patient, you have the rights listed below.

  • Informed of rights: You have the right to be informed of your rights surrounding treatment and discharge within 24 hours of admission. If you are a minor, your parent, managing conservator or guardian must also be informed of these rights.
  • Medication information: You have the right to have information about all prescription medication prescribed by your treating physician presented to you. This information can also be provided to your family on request to the extent allowed by confidentiality laws.
  • Leave the facility: You have the right to leave the facility within four hours after you sign a written request to leave, unless the hospital files an involuntary commitment application (see below for information on your rights if you want to leave the facility).
  • Periodic review: You have the right to be periodically reviewed to determine your need for continued inpatient treatment.

What are my rights if I decide that I want to leave the facility?

Voluntary patients have a right to request discharge, but not all discharge requests are granted. If your treating physician determines that you need to stay, he/she must seek a court order to keep you in the facility. The process for requesting discharge is outlined below.

  • File a request: A request for discharge must be in writing and filed with the facility administrator or someone they designate to handle these requests. If you make a verbal request to leave, a staff member must help you prepare a written request to sign as soon as possible. Many facilities have a standard Discharge Request Form, so you can ask for a copy.
  • Notify physician: Within 4 hours after you make a written request to leave, the facility must notify your physician. If your physician is not available, they must notify any available physician.
  • Physician’s decision: The physician must authorize your discharge before the end of the 4-hour period unless they have “reasonable cause” to believe that you might meet the criteria for involuntary services.
  • Physician notifies you: The physician must notify you if he/she intends to detain you beyond the initial 4-hour period or if they plan to seek an order for involuntary treatment.
  • Re-examination: If the physician decides you are not yet ready to leave, he/she must re-examine you within 24 hours to determine what further mental health services you need, if any. After the examination, if he/she determines that you no longer need mental health services you must be discharged immediately.
  • Court order: If the physician does not discharge you, he/she must file an application for court-ordered mental health services by 4 p.m. on the next business day after evaluating you. Because business days do not include weekends or holidays, this process can take several days depending on the day of the week you make your initial request to leave.
  • Care plan: If you are discharged, the facility must prepare a continuing care plan for you. If there is not time to prepare the plan before you leave, it must be mailed to you or your legally authorized representative within 24 hours of the time you leave.

If I voluntarily came to the hospital, under what circumstances can my physician file an application for court-ordered mental health services?

Your physician may not file an application for court-ordered mental health services unless you have requested to be released from the facility or your physician believes you meet the criteria for court-ordered mental health services and one of the following circumstances applies:

  • You leave the facility without authorization
  • You do not have the capacity to consent to treatment that your doctor thinks is necessary
  • You do not agree to treatment that your doctor thinks is appropriate and necessary

Even if your doctor asks the court for an order that requires you to stay in the facility, it will be up to a judge to decide if you need to be committed.

Have your rights been violated?

If you believe your rights as a voluntary patient have been violated, you should contact the facility’s Client Rights Officer for help right away. If you are in a state hospital, you have a right to complain to the Office of Consumer Services and Rights Protection by calling 1-800-252-8154. If you are in a private psychiatric facility, you have a right to complain to the Department of State Health Services Health Facility Compliance Group by calling 1-888-973-0022.


Last updated: January 10, 2022
Publication Code: IR04

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Disclaimer: Disability Rights Texas strives to update its materials on an annual basis, and this handout is based upon the law at the time it was written. The law changes frequently and is subject to various interpretations by different courts. Future changes in the law may make some information in this handout inaccurate.

The handout is not intended to and does not replace an attorney’s advice or assistance based on your particular situation.

To request this handout in ASL, Braille, or as an audio file, contact us.

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