When someone presents to an emergency room with a mental illness manifesting in danger to themselves or others, they can be admitted against their will on an emergency basis to inpatient mental health care through a process colloquially known as a Blue Paper application. However, when an inpatient bed is not immediately available, patients are “boarded” against their will in emergency rooms with little to no therapeutic care, sometimes for several weeks at a time before they are transferred to inpatient care, or their condition stabilizes enough for them to be discharged into the community. In February 2020, a man identified to the public only by his initials, A.S., was brought by law enforcement to LincolnHealth’s Miles Hospital Campus in Damariscotta where he would stay against his will for a total of thirty days. He filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, which was denied, and appealed his case to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court, sitting as the Law Court, recognized that A.S.’s due process rights were abridged while at the same time clarifying the legal procedures that allow others to be subjected to extended periods of psychiatric boarding in emergency rooms across Maine. This Note summarizes the historical and legal underpinnings of involuntary civil commitment. It then explains the recent history of Maine’s involuntary commitment statute that led to A.S.’s extended psychiatric boarding. This Note then provides a detailed explanation of his case, A.S. v. LincolnHealth. It then analyzes the statutory interpretation central to the holding of the case. Finally, this Note proposes several short-term administrative and judicial actions that should be taken to alleviate the problem of psychiatric boarding in Maine.
Meredith K. Cook,
After A.S.: Proposals to Alleviate Psychiatric Boarding in Maine,
Me. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.mainelaw.maine.edu/mlr/vol74/iss2/6