Back to top

Mental Health

Order to Apprehend (OTA)

In certain situations, the law allows the judge to order a person to be apprehended by law enforcement and delivered to the nearest available Emergency Receiving Facility (ERF) for examination.  ERFs are designated by the GA Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability (DBHDD) 

For a judge to sign an Order to Apprehend, the following must occur: 

  • There must be reason to believe that the individual is mentally ill or abusing drugs and/or alcohol, and 

  • represents a substantial risk of imminent harm to themselves or others, or 

  • is unable to care for their own physical health and safety as to create an imminently life-endangering crisis, or

  • is unable to voluntarily seek or comply with outpatient treatment and needs involuntary treatment, and

  • Two people who have witnessed the behavior within the last 48 hours must provide an affidavit, and other documentation if applicable, and submit it to the court.

If the judge signs the order and the patient is delivered to the ERF, the patient is legally required to be examined within 48 hours.  Any resulting action or inaction is outside of the Court's control.  Any treatment decision is a medical determination made by the treatment team.  This would include further evaluation, involuntary medication, and treatment. 

Involuntary Treatment

Under certain circumstances, as ordered by a judge of the Probate Court or Superior Court, Georgia law authorizes the involuntary treatment of persons, aged 18 or older, proven to be suffering from mental illness and/or drug or alcohol addiction.  (For minors under age 18, please contact the Juvenile Court). 

If a patient is found to be in need of involuntary treatment by the treatment team at the ERF,  the attending doctor will execute a certificate.  Within 24 hours of the certificate being issued, the patient is transported to an evaluating facility.  

If the evaluation facility makes the determination that further involuntary treatment is needed, the Chief Medical Officer of the evaluating facility will file a petition with the Probate Court for Involuntary Treatment.  This petition shall be supported by the opinions of 2 doctors who have personally examined the patient. The petition must include a proposed individualized treatment plan for the patient.  Once the petition has been filed with the Court, a hearing will occur within 7 to 12 days. The Court will always appoint counsel for the patient unless private counsel is retained.  The court must notify the patient and 2 patient representatives of the hearing date.   If there are no patient representatives, the court will appoint a Guardian ad Litem for the patient. 

After the conclusion of the hearing, the Court will determine whether the patient should be discharged, receive involuntary inpatient treatment (up to 6 mo.), or involuntary outpatient treatment.  

Mental Health Resources

Emergency Hotlines 

988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline 

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat  

The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a network of more than 200 state and local call centers supported by HHS through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

The lifeline, which also links to the Veterans Crisis Line, follows a three-year joint effort by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to put crisis care more in reach for people in need.

Georgia Crisis and Access Line (GCAL) 

The Georgia Crisis and Access Line (GCAL) is a 24/7 behavioral health crisis call center operated by Behavioral Health Link through funding from the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. GCAL provides free and confidential behavioral health crisis intervention and access to behavioral health services. Anyone in Georgia can call GCAL for help for themselves or on behalf of someone else at 800-715-4225 or via the My GCAL app. Callers actively experiencing a crisis can speak with live clinicians trained in de-escalation. When needed, GCAL can dispatch mobile crisis response teams to provide de-escalation on-site. GCAL information specialists can also provide referrals for treatment in a caller’s area.


TXT 4 HELP is a nationwide, 24-hour text-for-support service for teens in crisis.

If you’re in trouble or need help, text SAFE and your current location (address, city, state) to 4HELP (44357) for immediate help.

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) 

NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.  Visit them online at:

DBHDD (Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities)

The Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities provides treatment and support services to people with behavioral health challenges and addictive diseases.   Visit them online at: