Code of the District of Columbia

Subchapter V. Right to Communication; Exercise of Other Rights.


§ 21–561. Mail privileges; censored mail; return to sender; visiting hours.

(a) A person hospitalized in a public or private hospital pursuant to this chapter, or committed under sections 21-545, 21-545.01, or 21-548, may exercise the right to communicate with others as set forth in the Mental Health Consumers’ Rights Protection Act of 2001, effective December 18, 2001 (D.C. Law 14-56; D.C. Official Code § 7-1231.01 et seq.).

(b) Repealed.

(c) This section does not prohibit the administrator of a hospital from making reasonable rules regarding visitation hours.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 758, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1; Feb. 24, 1984, D.C. Law 5-48, § 11(a)(15), 30 DCR 5778; Apr. 4, 2003, D.C. Law 14-283, § 2(aa), 50 DCR 917.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 21-561.

1973 Ed., § 21-561.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 14-283 rewrote subsecs. (a) and (c); and repealed subsec. (b).

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(z) 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(z) 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(aa) 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(aa) 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Section 2(z) of D.C. Law 14-131 repealed subsec. (b) and rewrote subsecs. (a) and (c) to read as follows:

“(a) A person hospitalized in a public or private hospital pursuant to this chapter, or committed under sections 21-545, 21-545.01, or 21-548, may exercise the right to communicate with others as set forth in the Mental Health Consumers’ Rights Protection Act of 2001, effective December 18, 2001 (D.C. Law 14-56; 48 DCR 7674).”

“(c) This section does not prohibit the administrator of a hospital from making reasonable rules regarding visitation hours.”

References in Text

Section 21-545.01, referred to in subsec. (a), is enacted only upon enactment of certain legislation by the United States Congress.


§ 21–562. Medical and psychiatric care and treatment; records.

A person detained as an emergency involuntary patient by or committed to the care of the Department, a provider, or a hospital for mental illness shall, during the detention or commitment, be entitled to medical and psychiatric care and treatment. The administrator or director of the Department, a provider, or a hospital shall keep records detailing all medical and psychiatric care and treatment received by a person admitted for treatment as a voluntary, non-protesting, emergency or committed patient under this chapter and the records shall be made available, 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 person’s attorney, personal physician, or other treatment provider. The records shall be preserved by the administrator or director of the Department, hospital, facility, or mental health provider until the person has been released from treatment, or longer, as required by District of Columbia or federal laws and regulations.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 758, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1; Feb. 24, 1984, D.C. Law 5-48, § 11(a)(16), 30 DCR 5778; Apr. 4, 2003, D.C. Law 14-283, § 2(bb), 50 DCR 917.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 21-562.

1973 Ed., § 21-562.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 7-1202.06.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 14-283 rewrote the section which had read as follows: “§ 21-562. Medical and psychiatric care and treatment; records.” “A person hospitalized in a public hospital for a mental illness shall, during his hospitalization, be entitled to medical and psychiatric care and treatment. The administrator of each public hospital shall keep records detailing all medical and psychiatric care and treatment received by a person hospitalized for a mental illness and the records shall be made available, upon that person’s written authorization, to his attorney, personal physician, or personal qualified psychologist. The records shall be preserved by the administrator until the person has been discharged from the hospital.”

Cross References

Refusal or limitation on disclosure of mental health information, see § 7-1202.06.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(aa) 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(aa) 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(bb) 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(bb) 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(aa) of D.C. Law 14-131 amended this section to read as follows: “A person detained as an emergency involuntary patient by or committed to the care of the Department, a provider, or a hospital for mental illness shall, during the detention or commitment, be entitled to medical and psychiatric care and treatment. The administrator or director of the Department, a provider, or a hospital shall keep records detailing all medical and psychiatric care and treatment received by a person admitted for treatment as a voluntary, non-protesting, emergency or committed patient under this chapter and the records shall be made available, 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 person’s attorney, personal physician, or other treatment provider. The records shall be preserved by the administrator or director of the Department, hospital, facility, or mental health provider until the person has been released from treatment, or longer, as required by District of Columbia or federal laws and regulations.”

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


§ 21–563. Use of restraints or seclusion; record of use.

A person who is hospitalized in a public or private hospital pursuant to this chapter has the right to be free from seclusion and restraint of any form that is not medically necessary or that is used as a means of coercion, discipline, convenience, or retaliation by staff, pursuant to the Mental Health Consumers’ Rights Protection Act of 2001, effective December 18, 2001 (D.C. Law 14-56; D.C. Official Code § 7-1231.01 et seq.).


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 758, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1; Feb. 24, 1984, D.C. Law 5-48, § 11(a)(17), 30 DCR 5778; Apr. 4, 2003, D.C. Law 14-283, § 2(cc), 50 DCR 917.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 21-563.

1973 Ed., § 21-563.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 14-283 rewrote the section which had read as follows: “§ 21-563. Use of mechanical restraints; record of use. A mechanical restraint may not be applied to a patient hospitalized in a public or private hospital for a mental illness unless the use of restraint is prescribed by a physician or qualified psychologist. If so prescribed, the restraint shall be removed whenever the condition justifying its use no longer exists. A use of a mechanical restraint, together with the reasons therefor, shall be made a part of the medical record of the patient.”

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(bb) 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(bb) 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(cc) 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(cc) of Mental Health Civil Commitment Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2003 (D.C. Act 15-41, March 24, 2003, 48 DCR 2784).

Temporary Legislation

Section 2(bb) of D.C. Law 14-131 amended this section to read as follows: “§ 21-563. Use of restraints or seclusion; record of use. A person who is hospitalized in a public or private hospital pursuant to this chapter has the right to be free from seclusion and restraint of any form that is not medically necessary or that is used as a means of coercion, discipline, convenience, or retaliation by staff, pursuant to the Mental Health Consumers’ Rights Protection Act of 2001, effective December 18, 2001 (D.C. Law 14-56; D.C. Official Code § 7-1231.01 et seq.).”


§ 21–564. Exercise of property and other rights; notice of inability; persons hospitalized prior to September 15, 1964.

(a) A person admitted or committed for treatment pursuant to this chapter may not, by reason of the admission or treatment, be denied the right to dispose of property, execute instruments, make purchases, enter into contractual relationships, vote, and hold a driver’s license, unless the person has been adjudicated incompetent by a court of competent jurisdiction and has not been restored to legal capacity. If the chief clinical officer of the Department or the chief of service for the public or private hospital, facility, or provider in which the committed person is housed is of the opinion that the person is unable to exercise any of the rights referred to in this section, the chief clinical officer or chief of service shall immediately notify the person and the person’s attorney, legal guardian, spouse, parents, or other nearest known adult relative, the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, the Commission, and the Mayor of that fact.

(b) A person in the District of Columbia who, by reason of a judicial decree ordering his hospitalization entered prior to September 15, 1964, is considered to be mentally incompetent and is denied the right to dispose of property, execute instruments, make purchases, enter into contractual relationships, vote, or hold a driver’s license solely by reason of the decree, shall, upon the expiration of the one-year period immediately following September 15, 1964, be deemed to have been restored to legal capacity unless, within the one-year period, affirmative action is commenced to have the person adjudicated mentally incompetent by a court of competent jurisdiction; provided, however, that in those cases in which a committee has heretofore been appointed and the committeeship has not been terminated by court action, such committee shall continue to act under the supervision of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia under its equity powers.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 758, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1; July 29, 1970, 84 Stat. 567, Pub. L. 91-358, title I, § 150(c)(3), (4); Mar. 24, 1998, D.C. Law 12-81, § 14(j), 45 DCR 745; Apr. 4, 2003, D.C. Law 14-283, § 2(dd), 50 DCR 917.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 21-564.

1973 Ed., § 21-564.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 14-283 rewrote subsec. (a) which had read as follows: “(a) A patient hospitalized pursuant to this chapter may not by reason of the hospitalization, be denied the right to dispose of property, execute instruments, make purchases, enter into contractual relationships, vote, and hold a driver’s license, unless the patient has been adjudicated incompetent by a court of competent jurisdiction and has not been restored to legal capacity. If the chief of service of the public or private hospital in which the patient is hospitalized is of the opinion that the patient is unable to exercise any of the rights referred to in this section, the chief of service shall immediately notify the patient and the patient’s attorney, legal guardian, spouse, parents, or other nearest known adult relative, the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, the Commission on Mental Health, and the Mayor of the District of Columbia of that fact.”

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(cc) 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(cc) 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(dd) 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(dd) of Mental Health Civil Commitment Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2003 (D.C. Act 15-41, March 24, 2003, 48 DCR 2784).

Temporary Legislation

Section 2(cc) of D.C. Law 14-131 amended subsec. (a) to read as follows:

“(a) A person admitted or committed for treatment pursuant to this chapter may not, by reason of the admission or treatment, be denied the right to dispose of property, execute instruments, make purchases, enter into contractual relationships, vote, and hold a driver’s license, unless the person has been adjudicated incompetent by a court of competent jurisdiction and has not been restored to legal capacity. If the chief clinical officer of the Department or the chief of service for the public or private hospital, facility, or provider in which the committed person is housed is of the opinion that the person is unable to exercise any of the rights referred to in this section, the chief clinical officer or chief of service shall immediately notify the person and the person’s attorney, legal guardian, spouse, parents, or other nearest known adult relative, the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, the Commission, and the Mayor of that fact.”

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


§ 21–565. Statement of release and adjudication procedures and of other rights.

Upon the admission of a person to a hospital under a provision of this chapter, the administrator shall deliver to him, and to his spouse, domestic partner, parents, or other nearest known adult relative, a written statement outlining in simple, nontechnical language all release procedures provided by this chapter, setting out all rights accorded to patients by this chapter, and describing procedures provided by law for adjudication of incompetency and appointment of trustees or committees for the hospitalized person.


(Sept. 14, 1965, 79 Stat. 759, Pub. L. 89-183, § 1; Sept. 12, 2008, D.C. Law 17-231, § 22(e), 55 DCR 6758.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 21-565.

1973 Ed., § 21-565.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 17-231 substituted “spouse, domestic partner” for “spouse”.