Las Vegas Sun

October 20, 2017

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Legal 2000’ authority allowed police to hospitalize Assemblyman Brooks

The ever-bizarre saga of Assemblyman Steven Brooks' legal troubles took another strange turn Friday when police confiscated a sword from him while at a relative's house.

Brooks was taken in for mental health evaluation under the auspices of a "Legal 2000" form, a document that allows authorities to hold someone who may be a danger to himself or others.

According to the Legal 2000 form, a wide variety of positions of authority can start the process to hold a person for 72 hours.

Positions such as psychiatrists, social workers, registered nurses, and officers authorized to make arrests in Nevada may fill out the first sheet of the form. For someone to be held, the second sheet of the form must be filled out by a physician who has examined the person.

Lesley Dickson, the executive director of the Nevada Psychiatric Association, said police receive some instruction to help them evaluate people, but ultimately are not responsible for a full diagnosis.

“Whatever they do they’re going to make sure the person is safe and isn’t going to hurt anyone,” Dickson said. “You’re assessing the patients' thinking, their mood and their behavior.”

If the person is held, Dickson said, after 72 hours the defendant is brought before a judge who decides if the person needs additional mental health attention. The judge can decide to hold the person for another 60 days, but Dickson said that’s rare because people usually are deemed fit to be released before the full two months is over.

About 75 percent of people brought in under Legal 2000 are under the influence of drugs, alcohol, a medical issue, or some other emotional duress, Dickson said. Once they’re detained for a few days in a calm environment, she said, they tend to straighten out.

The concept of something like a legal 2000 isn’t new. Dickson said authorities have been able to commit people for over a century, and every state in the country has a process by which people can be detained for a mental health diagnosis.

For the upcoming legislative session, Dickson said she is helping to craft a bill that would allow outpatient commitment, which is similar to checking in with a probation officer. It would allow a judge to force a defendant to receive regular mental health treatment. Dickson said similar bills were presented before the Legislature in 2009 and 2011 but did not get through.

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