Virginia, like every state, has its own civil commitment laws that establish criteria for determining when court-ordered treatment is appropriate for individuals with severe mental illness who are too ill to seek care voluntarily. The state authorizes both inpatient (hospital) and outpatient (community) treatment, which is known in Virginia as "mandatory outpatient treatment." Virginia still uses an involuntary treatment standard based primarily on a person’s likelihood of being dangerous instead of using a more progressive “need for treatment” standard as in many states.



For inpatient treatment, a person must meet the following criteria:



  • be an imminent danger to self/others;
  • be so seriously mentally ill as to be substantially unable to care for self;
  • be substantially likely to "suffer serious harm due to substantial deterioration of his capacity to protect himself from harm or to provide for his basic human needs as evidenced by current circumstances."

For outpatient treatment, a person must meet the following criteria:

  • meet the inpatient criteria, and
  • be competent to understand the stipulations of treatment
  • want to live in community, and
    • agree to abide by treatment plan
    • reside where ordered treatment can be delivered on outpatient basis, and
    • can be monitored by community services board or designated providers.

State standards for emergency hospitalization for evaluation and state-by-state information on initiating emergency hospitalization and assisted inpatient or outpatient treatment can be found from our Civil Commitment Laws and Standards page. 


Visit Get Help for tools and information about preparing for and handling a psychiatric crisis.

Visit Get Involved for information about how you can help bring down barriers to the timely and effective treatment of severe mental illness.


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