Code of the District of Columbia

§ 21–522. Examination and admission to hospital; notice.

(a) Subject to the provisions of section 21-523, the administrator of a private hospital may, and the administrator of a public hospital or the chief clinical officer of the Department or his designee shall, admit and detain for purposes of emergency observation and diagnosis a person with respect to whom application is made under section 21-521, if the application is accompanied by a certificate of a psychiatrist, qualified physician, or qualified psychologist on duty at the hospital or the Department stating that he or she:

(1) Has examined the person;

(2) Is of the opinion that the person has symptoms of a mental illness and, because of the mental illness, is likely to injure himself or others unless the person is immediately detained; and

(3) Is of the opinion that hospitalization is the least restrictive form of treatment available to prevent the person from injuring himself or others.

(b) Subject to the provisions of section 21-523, the chief clinical officer of the Department shall admit and detain, for purposes of emergency observation and diagnosis at a facility certified by the Department for emergency detention, a person with respect to whom application is made under section 21-521, if the application is accompanied by a certificate of a psychiatrist, qualified physician, or qualified psychologist on duty at the Department stating that he or she:

(1) Has examined the person;

(2) Is of the opinion that the person has symptoms of a mental illness and, because of the mental illness, is likely to injure himself or others unless the person is immediately detained;

(3) Is of the opinion that hospitalization is not the least restrictive form of treatment available to ensure that the person will not injure himself or others; and

(4) Is of the opinion that detention in a certified facility for observation and diagnosis is the least restrictive treatment alternative to prevent the person from injuring himself or others.

(c) If the psychiatrist, qualified physician, or qualified psychologist determines, after examining the person who has been presented for emergency observation and diagnosis, that the person is not mentally ill, not likely to injure himself or others unless immediately detained, or that hospitalization or detention in a facility certified for emergency observation and diagnosis is not the least restrictive form of treatment, the psychiatrist, qualified physician, or qualified psychologist shall not admit the person to the hospital or facility as an inpatient and shall facilitate the person’s outpatient treatment through the Department or a provider, as appropriate.

(d) Immediately upon the admission of a mentally ill person to a hospital pursuant to this subchapter, the administrator of the hospital shall notify the chief clinical officer of the Department of the admission by telephone, telefax, or electronically. Not later than 24 hours after the admission pursuant to this subchapter, the administrator of the hospital or the chief clinical officer of the Department shall serve notice of the admission to the Commission, the parent or legal guardian of a person under 18 years of age who was admitted pursuant to this subchapter, and, if authorized by the person who was admitted to the hospital or the Department consistent with the provisions of the District of Columbia Mental Health Information Act of 1978, effective March 3, 1979 (D.C. Law 2-136; D.C. Official Code § 7-1201.01 et seq.), to the spouse or domestic partner, parent of an admitted person who is 18 years of age or older, or legal guardian of the person.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 753, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1; Feb. 24, 1984, D.C. Law 5-48, § 11(a)(9), 30 DCR 5778; Apr. 4, 2003, D.C. Law 14-283, § 2(i), 50 DCR 917; Sept. 12, 2008, D.C. Law 17-231, § 22(c), 55 DCR 6758.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 21-522.

1973 Ed., § 21-522.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 21-501, § 21-523, and § 21-524.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 14-283 rewrote the section which had read as follows: “§ 21-522. Examination and admission to hospital; notice.” “Subject to the provisions of section 21-523, the administrator of a private hospital, may, and the administrator of a public hospital shall, admit and detain for purposes of emergency observation and diagnosis a person with respect to whom application is made under section 21-521, if the application is accompanied by a certificate of a psychiatrist or qualified psychologist on duty at the hospital stating that he has examined the person and is of the opinion that he has symptoms of a mental illness and, as a result thereof, is likely to injure himself or others unless he is immediately hospitalized. Not later than 24 hours after the admission pursuant to this subchapter of a person to a hospital, the administrator of the hospital shall serve notice of the admission, by registered mail, to the spouse, parent, or legal guardian of the person and to the Commission on Mental Health.”

D.C. Law 17-231, in subsec. (d), substituted “spouse or domestic partner” for “spouse”.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(h) of Mental Health Commitment Emergency Amendment Act of 2002 (D.C. Act 14-265, January 30, 2002, 49 DCR 1450).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(h) of Mental Health Commitment Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2002 (D.C. Act 14-350, April 24, 2002, 49 DCR 4417).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(i) of Mental Health Civil Commitment Emergency Act of 2002 (D.C. Act 14-546, December 12, 2002, 50 DCR 199).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(i) of Mental Health Civil Commitment Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2003 (D.C. Act 15-41, March 24, 2003, 50 DCR 2784).

Temporary Legislation

Section 2(h) of D.C. Law 14-131 amended this section to read as follows:

“(a) Subject to the provisions of section 21-523, the administrator of a private hospital may, and the administrator of a public hospital or the chief clinical officer of the Department or his designee shall, admit and detain for purposes of emergency observation and diagnosis a person with respect to whom application is made under section 21-521, if the application is accompanied by a certificate of a psychiatrist, qualified physician, or qualified psychologist on duty at the hospital or the Department stating that he:

“(2) Is of the opinion that the person has symptoms of a mental illness and, because of the mental illness, is likely to injure himself or others unless the person is immediately hospitalized; and

“(3) Is of the opinion that hospitalization is the least restrictive form of treatment available to prevent the person from injuring himself or others.

“(b) Subject to the provisions of section 21-523, the chief clinical officer of the Department shall admit and detain, for purposes of emergency observation and diagnosis at a facility certified by the Department for emergency detention, a person with respect to whom application is made under section 21-521, if the application is accompanied by a certificate of a psychiatrist, qualified physician, or qualified psychologist on duty at the Department stating that he:

“(1) Has examined the person;

“(2) Is of the opinion that the person has symptoms of a mental illness and, because of the mental illness, is likely to injure himself or others unless the person is immediately detained;

“(3) Is of the opinion that hospitalization is not the least restrictive form of treatment available to ensure that the person will not injure himself or others; and

“(4) Is of the opinion that detention in a certified facility for observation and diagnosis is the least restrictive treatment alternative to prevent the person from injuring himself or others.

“(c) If the psychiatrist, qualified physician, or qualified psychologist determines, after examining the person who has been presented for emergency observation and diagnosis, that the person is not mentally ill, not likely to injure himself or others unless immediately detained, or that hospitalization or detention in a facility certified for emergency observation and diagnosis is not the least restrictive form of treatment, the psychiatrist, qualified physician, or qualified psychologist shall not admit the person to the hospital or facility as an inpatient and shall facilitate the person’s outpatient treatment through the Department or a provider, as appropriate.

“(d) Immediately upon the admission of a mentally ill person to a hospital pursuant to this subchapter, the administrator of the hospital shall notify the chief clinical officer of the Department of the admission by telephone, telefax, or electronically. Not later than 24 hours after the admission pursuant to this subchapter, the administrator of the hospital or the chief clinical officer of the Department shall serve notice of the admission to the spouse, parent, or legal guardian of the person and to the Commission on Mental Health, if authorized by the person who was admitted to the hospital or the Department consistent with the provisions of the District of Columbia Mental Health Information Act of 1978, effective March 3, 1979 (D.C. Law 2-136; D.C. Official Code § 7-1201.01 et seq.).”

Section 5(b) of D.C. Law 14-131 provided that the act shall expire after 225 days of its having taken effect.