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Parents or guardians do not have to seek a court order to admit their minor child or ward into inpatient hospitalization for mental health or addiction treatment, even if the child does not want to go. Under WV Code 27-4-1, the parents; or if only one parent is living, that parent; or if the parents are living separate and apart, the parent who has the custody of the child; or if there is a guardian who has legal custody of the child, then that guardian, may directly apply to a mental health facility for admission for their child or ward to the facility. Children so admitted are considered voluntary patients. If the child is an emancipated minor, the emancipated minor may admit him or herself as a voluntary patient. THERE ARE TWO EXCEPTIONS to this general law:

  1.  If the child is 14 years of age or older, the admitting facility must determine if the minor consents or objects to admission. If the minor objects, the facility either discharges the minor within ninety-six hours or may have, where appropriate, its chief medical officer file for involuntary hospitalization of the minor. If the ninety-six hour period ends on a Saturday, Sunday, or a holiday on which the court is closed, the ninety-six hour period is extended by law and the minor must be kept by the facility until the next day which is not a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday on which the court is closed.
  2.  If the application for admission cannot be made by the parents, the only living parent, the parent who has custody when the parents are living separate and apart, the guardian, or the emancipated minor, the involuntary hospitalization process may be used to seek a court order of commitment.

The person making the application directly with a mental health facility for treatment of a minor must transport the minor to the facility with ONE EXCEPTION: If the child is violent or combative, or the parent or guardian faces circumstances that make the parent or guardian unable to transport, the parent or guardian may file an affidavit with the circuit court of the county in which the minor resides or may be found, to seek transport by the sheriff of that county. The affidavit is reviewed by a circuit judge, mental hygiene commissioner, or designated magistrate, who may order transport to the mental health facility if appropriate under the facts given in the affidavit. The affidavit must be notarized or sworn to under oath.

The chief medical officer of a mental health facility is required by law to release any voluntary patient who, in that medical officer’s opinion, has recovered or whose hospitalization is no longer advisable.

Additional information on hospitalization of minors can be found in the West Virginia Code Chapter 27-4-1, Authority to Receive Voluntary Patients. The West Virginia Code is available at the State Law Library at the State Capitol in Charleston, East Wing, Third Floor, or online at the West Virginia Legislature website, under the tab “WV Code."