Poor mental health is a massive problem for many adults. Although old age can trigger mental health instability, other external factors may also be responsible. For instance, lack of attention or care for older adults often leads to dejection and depression, and long-lasting depression can spur other problems. Perhaps this is part of the reason why quite a few people seek a mental health conservatorship in California for a loved one in need.

A mental health conservatorship in California can help your loved one enjoy the best quality of life possible. What is a mental health conservatorship, and how can you determine if it’s right for your situation? We will cover all that and more in this article.

What Is a Conservatorship in California?

In California, a conservatorship is a legal arrangement meant to ensure the wellbeing and medical treatment of someone who can’t care for themselves (conservatee). To do this, responsible adult individuals (conservators) are tasked with making arrangements for the conservatee.

Depending on the type of conservatorship, a conservator can be responsible for virtually every aspect of the life of a conservatee. A conservator may provide basic needs for a conservatee and/or manage the conservatee’s financial affairs. The conservator may extend to tracking the financial activities of the conservatee. In most cases, this depends on the severity of the conservatee’s mental disorder or other incapacities.

Types of Conservatorship in California

mental health conservatorship in california

There are two main types of conservatorship in the Golden State: the probate conservatorship and Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) conservatorship. Probate conservatorship also includes two subtypes of conservatorship. A mental health conservatorship can fall under either umbrella, so check out the descriptions below to determine which may be best in your situation.

Probate Conservatorship 

This is the most common conservatorship arrangement in California. There are two types of probate conservatorship: a general conservatorship and a limited conservatorship.

The general form of probate conservatorship requires utmost attention or care from the conservatory. As long as a person is mentally and/or physically impaired, they may be a candidate for a general conservatorship. The patients are not always old; as some are younger.

On the other hand, a limited conservatorship is specifically for older people or any adult with a developmental disability. Natural mental decline related to age or a developmental disability like autism can qualify someone for a limited conservatorship. The care required from the limited conservator is not necessarily intense as care under a general conservatorship.

What if the court cannot approve a general or limited conservatorship fast enough and the situation is urgent? In that case, the patient is placed under a temporary conservatorship arrangement. A temporary conservator or private conservator cares for the person until the general or limited conservatorship is approved.

Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) Conservatorship

The LPS conservatorship is a result of the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act. It requires care and mental health treatment of persons with very specific mental health conditions that make them a danger to themselves or others. An LPS conservatorship often includes the conservatee being held in a locked facility with movement restrictions.

County mental health agencies often need to get involved in cases like this because patients almost never agree to LPS conservatorship. Instead, disabled persons may require involuntary treatment in a locked facility until the situation is less dire.

What Is a Mental Health Conservatorship?

As we mentioned, persons with a mental health concern may qualify for either a probate or LPS conservatorship. The LPS (Lanterman-Petris-Short) conservatorship is also known as a mental health conservatorship. Keep in mind that an LPS conservatorship has very strict requirements for qualification and treatment plans.

If, for example, you have an ailing parent with a mental disorder who requires long-term treatment in a residential care facility, you probably don’t need to look into LPS conservatorships. However, if your loved one is in an emergency situation and meets the criteria outlined below, an LPS conservatorship may be necessary for their personal care.

Qualification for LPS Mental Health Conservatorships

To qualify for an LPS conservatorship, a person has to have a qualifying biological brain disorder. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the qualifying disorders are:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Manic depression
  • Clinical depression
  • Schizophrenia
  • Schizo-affective disorder
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Any organic brain disorder not recorded in the statistical manual does not require conservatorship. This includes mental illness caused by individuals’ negligence and undue influence. Chronic alcoholism, the use of psychotropic (mind-altering) drugs, and other drug addiction issues don’t qualify a person for an LPS conservatorship. If your loved one needs help with any issue not covered by an LPS conservatorship, a probate conservatorship is probably your best bet.

How LPS Mental Health Conservatorships Work

An individual with mental health issues may, unfortunately, be unable to make wise decisions. Hence, the court may not always consider the individual’s opinion on their treatment. In other words, involuntary treatment may be necessary.

Health workers have proven that psychiatric treatment works faster if a family member is an LPS conservator. It could be a family, friend, or any other loved one. If none of these are available, a social worker may be appointed to be the conservator. The LPS conservator has exclusive authority to make medical and financial decisions for the conservatee. However, every decision must be in the interest of the person subject to mental health conservatorship.

Once an LPS conservatorship has been approved, a conservator has the right to place the conservatee in a psychiatric facility if this is suggested by a psychiatrist or treatment team. Most of the time, such a mental institution is a locked facility. A conservator may not hold back on this duty even if the conservatee disagrees with the treatment. This also applies to the use of certain drugs or medications.

The duration of an LPS mental health conservatorship is usually a year. If symptoms persist, the conservator has to file a petition for renewal.

The Difference between LPS and Murphy Conservatorships

You may be wondering why we didn’t mention Murphy conservatorships before. This is because a Murphy conservatorship is a very specialized conservatorship with even more qualification requirements than an LPS conservatorship. A Murphy conservatorship is only available to individuals who meet certain mental criteria and who have committed a felony. A police department may request a Murphy conservatorship, for instance, if someone accused of a felony is unable to stand trial due to qualifying mental disabilities.

An LPS conservatorship is not restricted to felons. However, sometimes people in the criminal system do qualify for an LPS conservatorship if their case is not severe enough to warrant a Murphy conservatorship. Such an individual can sometimes attend a court evidentiary hearing or jury trial and have county counsel.

That being said, LPS and Murphy conservatorship have similar goals and purposes. They are both for individuals with specific mental disorders who require a high level of intervention and care.

How a Murphy Conservatorship Works

A person placed under Murphy conservatorship does not receive a direct conservator from among their family members, friends, or any other citizen. Instead, the conservatee is placed under mental care by professional conservators. The conservatee’s individual rights are upheld, and medical decisions are made for them until proven to be non-dangerous.

If the patients are still incapable of taking care of themselves or still pose a threat to society one year, the Murphy conservatorship continues at appropriate mental health facilities.

When Is a Mental Health Conservatorship Necessary?

If you have a loved one who is no longer able to care for themselves due to poor mental health, a probate conservatorship may be a good option. This can give an older adult who is impaired the opportunity to receive assistance arranging for individualized treatment from another adult. The sick individual is then less likely to fall victim to unprofessional treatment or infringement of their legal rights. They can also get help dealing with financial matters via an estate conservatorship.

An LPS mental health conservatorship in California is an even more serious matter than a probate conservatorship since the conservator is given legal authority to take charge of the conservatee’s lifestyle. Hence, the court only allows mental health conservatorship of the patient who is gravely disabled according to the criteria outlined above. Conservatorship is like reaching the end of the road, with all other options exhausted. This is how the government steps in to help a gravely mentally derailed person.

Keep in mind that if any close relative can meet the patient’s basic needs, the court will not provide a conservatorship. For instance, if a bipolar brother lives with a sister who effectively cares for him, he does not qualify for an LPS mental health conservatorship.

Filing for a Mental Health Conservatorship in California

Implementing any type of conservatorship requires a conservatorship investigation. The conservatorship investigation simply ensures the conservatee meets all the criteria for conservatorship.

If the conservator is deemed appropriate and letters of conservatorship are accepted, the court appoints the conservator and grants the right to look after the medical status of the conservatee. The court dictates how a conservator participates in a conservatee’s life and to what extent. If the person doesn’t qualify after the conservatorship investigation, there are many alternatives to conservatorship they could opt for instead.

Filing for an LPS Mental Health Conservatorship

Regardless of how severe your loved one’s illness may seem, you cannot decide to implement an LPS mental health conservatorship in California on your own. Instead, you’ll need to visit a therapist with your loved one. If the patient needs conservatorship, the therapist will refer you to the Office of the Public Guardian.

In most cases, the court prefers to appoint a conservator proposed by the conservatee, especially if such a person meets the requirements. Hence, you want to be sure of your capacity before taking on this enormous task.

You can file for a conservatorship if you are:

  • The victim’s lover or spouse
  • The victim’s relative
  • A legalized agency or local authority representative
  • The victim’s friend or well-wisher
  • The victim themselves

Once you file, professional staff examine the patient to determine if the situation merits an LPS conservatorship.

Steps to Getting a Mental Health LPS Conservatorship

State law restrict who can initiate a LPS mental health conservatorship. It’s not as easy as calling the county and saying your loved one is mentally ill and is a danger to themself. Furthermore, just because a person is found gravely mentally disabled doesn’t automatically place them under a conservatorship. If you have a loved one with a mental issue and wish to put them under a conservatorship arrangement, here are the steps  you

Step One: Request a WIC 5150 hold
Only peace officers and authorized mental health personnel can place a person under a 5150 hold.  The peach officer will transport the individual to a mental health facility and, upon admission, be informed of their rights as a patient under California Welfare and Institutions Code 5325. If a mental health professional believes your loved one is in danger due to their condition, they will put them on a psychiatric hold for 72 hours. By the end of the 72 hours, one of the following things will occur.

  • The medical professional will release them;
  • The mentally ill person will admit themselves as a voluntary patient;
  • The hold will be extended to a 14 day involuntary hold; or
  • The matter will be referred to the Office of the Public Guardian for a conservatorship.

Keep in mind that amily members or other private parties cannot refer a person for a mental health conservatorship. The judge will deny a conservatorship request if you have not followed LSP legal guidelines.

1. An approved psychiatrist authorized to do LPS evaluations
2. The professional staff at the hospital where the person is receiving mental health treatment

Step Two: Request a Temporary Conservatorship
The Office of the Public Conservator will formally request the court to establish a temporary mental health conservatorship.

Should you need further information, we suggest you reach out to the county regional center where the proposed conservatee resides. Click here to find a location.