When Someone Is a Danger to Self or Others

Learn How to Keep Yourself and Others Safe


In certain circumstances where an individual is putting him or herself or others in danger due to their mental health or substance use symptoms, friends, family, and professionals may be able to initiate a process of having the individual evaluated and/or placed in treatment against their will. This is an extreme measure that involves temporarily taking away a person’s freedom. For this reason, Colorado law is very specific about when this can occur and the steps that need to be taken to ensure the individual’s rights are protected. Learn more about the laws and rules in Colorado governing mental health care and treatment.

72-hour mental health evaluation

Also called a “mental health hold”, “M1 hold” or “72-hour hold”

A law enforcement officer or mental health professional can hold a person for evaluation and treatment if the person appears, in the moment, to be:

  • An imminent danger to him or herself
  • Or is gravely disabled as a result of a mental health disorder

Evaluation and treatment are done in a hospital or mental health facility. The hold is designed to allow this person to be evaluated for mental health needs, which could include voluntary treatment or further involuntary treatment. The law requires that the patient is cared for in the least restrictive environment and encourage voluntary treatment.

The individual must be released within 72 hours unless: a mental health professional recommends they need further treatment, the court orders ongoing involuntary treatment, or the person volunteers to go into treatment.

If you or a loved one need immediate help, contact Colorado Crisis Services.

Ongoing involuntary treatment

Also called “short-term certification” or “long-term certification”

If a person continues to be a danger to him or herself or is gravely disabled as a result of a mental health disorder after 72 hours, a mental health professional will make a recommendation for continued care. If the person will not go into treatment voluntarily, a court can order the person to go to a hospital or other mental health treatment facility that is designated by the state for treatment for up to two(2) 90-day periods.

Involuntary treatment of substance use disorders

Short-term commitment of substance use disorders (emergency commitment)

If a person is intoxicated or incapacitated by alcohol or drugs and is a clear danger to his or her own health and safety or the health and safety or others, he or she can be held for up to five days in a withdrawal management (detoxification) program. If an individual is hospitalized for alcohol or drug-related reasons, families can advocate for an emergency commitment. Hospitals can coordinate with local withdrawal management (detoxification) if an emergency commitment is clinically appropriate.

An individual can be placed and detained in a licensed detoxification program without the individual’s consent for up to five days if an “Application for Emergency Commitment” is completed by a responsible person and approved by the detoxification program’s administrator or designee. The person completing the application must be at least 18 years old and must have observed the behavior of the individual they wish to commit to the detoxification program. This person becomes the applicant and must state in the application that the person whose commitment is being sought is either intoxicated (under the influence) or clearly dangerous to self and/or others or is incapacitated and clearly dangerous to self and/or others. The application must contain facts, statements, and information that supports the alleged grounds for commitment. More information can be found here.

Ongoing involuntary treatment of substance use disorders (involuntary commitment):

When an individual is placed under an emergency commitment for alcohol or substances, a family member or responsible person may petition the courts for an involuntary commitment. This is a process that is done through an application process with the Office  of Behavioral Health. Successful filing of the Involuntary Commitment Petition extends the Emergency Commitment hold until a court hearing, where a judge determines whether a commitment to treatment will be ordered in the case. A commitment to treatment is ordered If a person is determined by a court to be a dangerous to him or herself or others or incapacitated due to alcohol or drug use and refuses voluntary treatment, and found to be able to benefit from treatment placement available through the Office of Behavioral Health. More information for be found here.

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