Psychiatric Evaluation

Family members or other concerned adults such as a therapist or the police may initiate an Emergency Evaluation process that will allow the police to transport an individual to the local hospital emergency room for a psychiatric evaluation.  This emergency evaluation process is usually referred to as an “emergency petition” (EP).  Also, any of the following mental health professionals can complete an Emergency Evaluation form that will allow the police to transport an individual to the local emergency room for a psychiatric evaluation:  physician (MD), psychologist (Ph.D.), licensed clinical social worker (LCSW-C) or licensed clinical professional counselor (LCPC).  If a family member or concerned adult is initiating the emergency evaluation process they would go to the Clerk’s Office at the District Courthouse (410-480-7700) located at 3451 Court House Drive in Ellicott City Maryland to file an emergency evaluation/petition between the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.  After 4:30 p.m. you would go to the Court Commissioner’s Office to file an emergency evaluation petition.  Information must be provided to a Judge or Commissioner regarding why this individual is a danger to themselves or others and therefore needs to be evaluated for a psychiatric hospitalization.  If the Judge/Commissioner agrees that the individual being “petitioned” needs a psychiatric evaluation, the police will be ordered to transport the individual to the nearest hospital emergency room for a psychiatric evaluation.  The Mobile Crisis Team (MCT) is available daily and can pursue an emergency evaluation if needed.  Call 410-531-6677.


A psychiatric evaluation determines whether hospitalization is needed or whether a less restrictive level of care may be more appropriate.  Admissions to psychiatric facilities (private or community hospitals) can be either voluntary or involuntary.  If an evaluation is completed and inpatient treatment is recommended, the patient will be asked to sign a voluntary admission agreement.  In the case of a minor, a parent/legal guardian signs the voluntary admissions agreement.  In Maryland, a person 16 years old or older may sign himself into a psychiatric hospital.  However, the parent of a minor child can authorize in-patient treatment even over the objections of the adolescent who is 16-18 years old.


If the patient refuses to be hospitalized voluntarily, he or she may be admitted involuntarily on certificates signed by two physicians, or one physician and one licensed psychologist.  The certificates attest to the need for hospitalization based on the following:

  • the individual is suffering from a mental disorder
  • the individual is in need of inpatient care
  • the individual is in danger to self or others

Howard County General Hospital has an Emergency Room for psychiatric emergencies that is separate from the regular Emergency Room.  This behavioral health Emergency Room is for individuals 18 and older.  Individuals under 18 would use the Pediatric Emergency Room. When a patient is admitted involuntarily to a hospital, a hearing must occur before an administrative law judge within 10 days to determine if the individual can continue to be involuntarily confined to an in-patient psychiatric facility against his wishes.