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In addition to laws governing inpatient commitment, North Carolina law also allows for outpatient commitment. A person can receive an outpatient commitment if all of the following apply:

  • The person has a mental illness
  • The person can survive safely in the community with available supervision
  • Based on the person’s history, she is in need of continued treatment to prevent further deterioration that might result in dangerousness
  • The person’s mental status or the nature of the illness limits her ability to make an informed decision to seek voluntary treatment or to comply with recommended treatment

The process to seek outpatient commitment is similar to inpatient commitment—a petition must be made to the magistrate and a court hearing is held. An initial outpatient commitment can be for 90 days, and for an additional 180 days upon rehearing. Often, when someone has an inpatient commitment, the person will receive a “split commitment” from the judge at her court hearing. That is, a certain number of days will be inpatient, and a certain number of days will be outpatient (up to a total of 90 days).

A person who receives an outpatient commitment is required to attend all scheduled outpatient appointments. She cannot be forced to take medications. If she does not keep the appointments, a mental health professional can go to the magistrate and request that the person be picked up by the sheriff and brought into the clinic for an evaluation.