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About the Behavioral Health Provider Coalition

What is Section 12?

In Massachusetts, Section 12 of Chapter 123 of the Massachusetts General Laws controls the admission of an individual to a general or psychiatric hospital for psychiatric evaluation and, potentially, treatment. Section 12(a) allows for an individual to be brought against his or her will to such a hospital for evaluation. Section 12(b) allows for an individual to be admitted to a psychiatric unit for up to three business days against the individual’s will or without the individual’s consent.

Who can sign a Section 12(a) application?

Pursuant to Section 12(a), a physician, nurse practitioner, qualified psychiatric nurse, qualified psychologist, licensed independent clinical social worker, or police officer 2 may apply to admit anyone to a facility if he or she believes that, without hospitalization, the person meets the standard for admission.

What is the standard for admission under Section 12(a)?

The standard is whether the individual would “create a likelihood of serious harm by reason of mental illness.” “Likelihood of serious harm” means one of three things:

  • The person poses a substantial risk of physical harm to him/herself as manifested by evidence, threats of, or attempts at suicide or serious bodily injury; or

  • The person poses a substantial risk of physical harm to others as evidenced by homicidal or violent behavior or evidence that others are in reasonable fear of violent behavior and serious physical harm from that person; or

  • The person’s judgment is so affected that there is a very substantial risk that the person cannot protect himself or herself from physical impairment or injury, and no reasonable provision to protect against this risk is available in the community.