Declaration Document Provides for Mental Health Treatment Preferences

​​​Q:  I have been diagnosed with a mental illness, and have been advised I should have a “declaration for mental health treatment.” What exactly is that document, and what does it include?
A:  You would complete and sign a “declaration for mental health treatment” document to state your own preferences regarding your mental health treatment and to name a person to make mental health care decisions for you when you are unable to make them for yourself. 

Q:  What is the difference between a power of attorney for healthcare and a declaration for mental health treatment?
A:   You would complete and sign a power of attorney for healthcare document to name a person to make all types of healthcare decisions for you when you are unable to make them for yourself. A declaration for mental health treatment is slightly different in that you are able to state, in advance, your own preferences specifically regarding your mental health treatment, as well as your choice of a person to make those treatment decisions when you are unable to make them yourself. 

Q:  Should I have both a power of attorney for healthcare and a declaration for mental health treatment?
A:   For many people, the more general power of attorney for healthcare is sufficient. However, if you want to designate specific or more complex mental health treatment regimes, such as a specific psychotropic drug therapy treatment, electroconvulsive therapy, or admission to a specific treatment facility, then a declaration for mental health treatment can provide that information before you would need such services. Particularly if you have a history of mental illness, having such information available for care providers can be important.

Q:  What is a “proxy”?
A:   The “proxy” is the person you name in your declaration for mental health treatment and authorize to make decisions about your mental health treatment when you are unable to make them yourself. The proxy also will be your advocate in discussing with your treating doctors your stated choices for treatment, and will act in your best interests with regard to your mental health treatment.  You can name any adult, except your mental health treatment provider. However, it should be a person that you know and trust to make decisions for you and in your best interests.

Q:  How long is a declaration for mental health treatment valid?
A:  Generally, a declaration for mental health treatment is only valid for three years unless you decide to revoke (cancel) it sooner. After three years, the declaration automatically expires, but you may renew if one time for an additional three years if you wish. However, if the declaration is in effect and you are undergoing mental health treatment, but are unable to make treatment decisions yourself, then the declaration will remain in effect until you regain the capacity to consent to make mental health treatment decisions yourself. Additionally, if you only use your declaration for mental health treatment to appoint a proxy to make mental health treatment decisions for you when you are unable to do so, then the document will remain permanently in effect unless it is revoked.

Q:  What if I change my mind and decide I no longer want a declaration for mental health treatment?
A:  You can revoke a declaration for mental health treatment at any time, as long as you have the mental capacity to consent to your own mental health treatment decisions. To revoke your declaration, you must indicate you want to cancel your declaration in writing, and you must date and sign your statement. The revocation is effective as soon as you give it to your mental health treatment provider.

7/19/2016​

This “Law You Can Use” consumer legal information column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association.  It was prepared by Columbus attorney Bryan B. Johnson of the Columbus law firm of Bryan B. Johnson, Attorney at Law, LLC, and reviewed by Columbus attorney Eric Gamble of Gamble Hartshorn, LLC. 

Articles appearing in this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the law. This article is not intended to be legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from a licensed attorney.

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