A very common question I find and get asked is how do I start a conservatorship for a family member? This question is quite difficult to answer without knowing the patient's medical background, relationship with patient, county of residence., and compliance with current medication/treatment plan. I will walk you through some of the issues that commonly prevent family members from obtaining an LPS conservatorship for their loved one.
The first question I begin with is what is the patient's diagnosis? This question is very important as that the patient must have a serious mental illness to even be considered for a LPS conservatorship. Because LPS conservatorship is managed by the public conservator, there are very limited investigators and resources. Because of these limited resources, the public conservator only considers patients with serious mental illness. Serious mental illness is bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, schizoaffective., and in some rarer cases major depressive disorder. The reason that the public conservator only considers serious mental illness because serious mental illness has a higher chance for meeting the criteria of gravely disability.
The next question that I ask is how many hospitalizations has the patient had? The patient should have had several historical hospitalizations. Without any history of hospitalization, the court will find that the conservatee is not gravely disabled enough. Hospitalizations "show" that the conservatee is truly unable to safely manage in their community and need intensive treatment and supervision. From what I hear and seen in cases is around 3-5 hospitalizations indicate a greater likelyhood of a conservatorship being granted. Even if the family member says that "even if he hasnt been hospitalized before, he shows signs of mental illness" or "if it weren't for my help he would be on the streets and struggling" they will be hard pressed to conserve their loved one. Third party assistance clause may be relevant in the latter case.
The third question I will pose to these questioning caretakers, is what county are they usually seeking to conserve the patient. Depending on the county they will either have a harder or easier time conserving the patients. In some counties with more funding such as Santa Clara, the caretaker will have a relatively easier time conserving the patient, but in large counties without much funding like LA or San Diego, conservatorship will be hard to obtain. Seems like a small factor but it is important to note that it does place a factor.
The last thing I consider is treatment plan. Does the patient take their meds, engage in outpatient or therapy, and/or show insight into their mental illness. I have run across caretakers who have compliant loved ones but still want a conservatorship out of concern for what may happen. One lady mentioned how well her son was doing but she wanted to conserve him just in case of relapse. I had to reiterate to the concerned mother that he had to be actively showing symptoms in order to be considered for hospitalization and conservatorship. I strongly recommend that the caretakers wait for the conservatee to decompensate before asking the public conservator for a psychiatric investigation to be opened against the patient.
The final and largest point that I make is that ONLY THE PUBLIC CONSERVATOR MAY INITIATE AN LPS CONSERVATORSHIP. The public conservator does not take referrals from family or friends. This is not probate conservatorship where anyone can make a referral. Only the psychiatrist can send a request and the public conservator can initiate proceedings with the court. The family can send a request into the public conservator for a psychiatric evaluation, but the public conservator's psychiatrist will be the one making a referral.
These are many points that people are not told about LPS conservatorship and knowing this can help clear up the many confusing points surrounding LPS conservatorship initiation procedures.
Kiva Van Winkle
I would like to be my
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Juvenile Dependency and