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Ask the Experts

Question:

Why do patients hospitalized for schizophrenia have to wait 6 - 7 weeks before a Treatment Over Objection hearing can be scheduled and how can we change legislation to alleviate the suffering caused by prolonged and untreated psychosis?

Family members suffer terribly to see their loved ones endure frightening hallucinations while waiting for a slow-moving legal system to allow necessary medications to be given.

Answered by: Paul Appelbaum

There is no inherent reason why hearings for treatment over objection need to take weeks to schedule, though that is the case in a number of states now.

Experience with commitment proceedings has demonstrated that hearings can be held expeditiously (i.e., within days) when the statute requires it. But it will likely take legislative action to mandate rapid hearings before the courts will respond. Identification of a legislative sponsor and documentation of what happens as hearings are delayed are likely to be the most crucial factors in getting current legislation modified.