The Mental Health Conservatorship is part of the Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) Act 1967. An LPS Conservatorship is the legal term used in California that gives one adult (the conservator) the responsibility for overseeing the comprehensive medical (mental) treatment for an adult (conservatee) who has a serious mental illness. Guidelines for the involuntary mental health treatment are under the California Welfare and Institutions Codes 5200.
The most common illnesses covered by a conservatorship include serious, biological brain disorders like:
- Bipolar Disorder
- Schizoaffective Disorder
- Clinical Depression
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
FAQs on LP Conservatorships
1. How long do LPS conservatorships last?
An LPS conservatorship only lasts one year. About 90 days before it expires, the LPS clerk in the Probate Court Clerk’s Office will mail the conservator and the conservatee a notice of expiration.
2. Under what circumstances could I be conserved under LPS?
A court may establish or renew a conservatorship if you meet the standards of being “gravely disabled” or if you are considered a harm to self or others. A person is gravely disabled if the person, as a result of a mental health disorder, is unable to provide for her or his basic personal needs for food, clothing, or shelter. The petitioner must prove that you meet this standard beyond a reasonable doubt to obtain a conservatorship.
3. How is the LPS conservatorship process initiated?
Only designated mental health facilities, agencies, or the courts, can initiate the LPS conservatorship process by referring you to the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG). If the OPG decides that you may meet the standards of an LPS conservatorship, you will be conserved by the OPG under a 30-day temporary conservatorship (T-con/5270 hold). During these 30 days, OPG has authority over your medical treatment and investigates whether there is a need for a permanent conservatorship. If OPG finds that there are no viable alternatives to a conservatorship, it will recommend that you be conserved for one year under LPS.
4. How do I terminate an LPS conservatorship if I am already a conservatee?
If your conservatorship was established within the last 60 days, you can file a notice of appeal. You can file the appeal by yourself or ask an attorney to do it on your behalf.
If it has been more than 60 since your conservatorship was established, you can ask for a rehearing or file a writ of habeas corpus. You should try to file for a rehearing before filing a writ of habeas corpus.
If it’s been almost a year since you’ve been on the conservatorship, you can wait and see if your conservator will try and renew your conservatorship at a reestablishment hearing. If your conservator will be seeking a renewal, you can choose to oppose the reestablishment in court.
If you plan to oppose your conservatorship:
- You are entitled to a free, court-appointed attorney if you cannot afford one. If you don’t have money, you are also entitled to a waiver of all costs.
- You can find a plan of action to show that you are not gravely disabled here (Attachment F).
5. What types of LPS conservatorships exist?
The first is an LPS Conservatorship of the Person, in which the conservator can choose the appropriate living arrangement (such as locked facilities) and treatment (including psychotropic drugs) for the conservatee. A qualified psychiatrist initiates a petition to the public guardian’s office, which in turn petitions the court for the conservatorship of the person.
The second is an LPS Conservatorship of the Estate, in which the conservator can make financial decisions for the conservatee. The public guardian’s initial investigation determines if there is a need for the LPS of the Estate Conservatorship. The family can also request that the public guardian petition the court for the estate conservatorship at the time of the LPS Conservatorship hearing. Or, they can request the LPS of the estate at some time later, when the person is still under the LPS Conservatorship. The doctor is not involved with the LPS of the estate.
6. Can the court order medication or treatment against my will?
A court may only order involuntary medication or treatment if convincing evidence proves that you are incompetent to give or withhold consent. A finding that you are gravely disabled is not sufficient to justify court-ordered involuntary medication or treatment.
7. Will my conservator have control over my finances?
If your conservator is also appointed conservator of the estate, they may make financial decisions and receive benefits (such as SSI and Medi-Cal) on your behalf. The conservator must use any checks received on your behalf solely for your benefit. If your conservator manages your finances, they must file regular accounts to the court explaining how they handled your finances.
8. What if my conservator is a public guardian whom I don’t know how to contact?
Begin by looking in the phone book or online under “public guardian.” You can also ask your social worker or lawyer for the name and number of your public guardian. You can call the county patients’ rights advocates for the name and number.
9. Who can advocate for me?
You have the right to an attorney. If you can’t afford to hire an attorney, you are entitled to a free, court-appointed attorney. You also have the right to see a patient’s rights advocate who has no clinical or administrative responsibility for your mental health treatment and to receive their services. You have the right to contact the patients’ rights advocate at any time. The facility where you are staying will provide you with assistance to ensure that you can exercise this right. You have the right to communicate with and to receive visits privately from your patients’ rights advocate or attorney.
10. What are my rights as a patient?
- These are your rights that cannot be denied:
- The Right to Humane Care
- The Right to Be Free from Abuse or Neglect
- The Right to Social Activities and Recreation
- The Right to Education
- The Right to Religious Freedom and Practice
- The Right to Be Free from Discrimination
- You have rights that may be denied for good reason. Good cause for denying any of the rights means that the professional person in charge has a good reason to believe that allowing a specific right would cause: Injury to that person or others; or a serious infringement on the rights of others; or serious damage to the facility; and there is no less restrictive way to protect against these occurrences.
- Wearing your own clothing
- Possessing money
- See visitors
- Access storage space
- Keep and use personal possessions
- Use a telephone
- Receive mail
- Have writing materials