Massachusetts law about mental health issues

A compilation of laws, regulations, cases and web sources on mental health law.

Table of Contents

COVID-19 resources

COVID-19: Trial Court substance use disorder and mental health resources 
A collection of substance use disorder and mental health resources, including links to online support groups and recovery meetings, self-care resources, and hotlines and helplines.

Massachusetts laws

MGL c.6A, §§ 16P-16S Yolanda's law: enhancing children's mental health treatment:

  • § 16P Coordination of clinically-appropriate behavioral health services for children; monthly report
  • § 16Q Children's behavioral health advisory council; members; terms; powers and duties; annual report
  • § 16R Geographically-based interagency review team for disabled children who qualify for services from multiple agencies
  • § 16S Coordination of purchase of behavioral health services for children

MGL c.19 Dept. of Mental Health

MGL c.123 Mental health. 

MGL c.112, § 172A Protecting patient confidentiality

MGL c.140, §§ 131R-131Y Extreme risk protection orders (ERPO)
Provides a process for family and household members to petition the court to temporarily take weapons from people who pose a risk to themselves or others.

Massachusetts regulations and guidelines

104 CMR Department of Mental Health

Interpretive guidelines for 104 CMR 29 determining service authorization for children, adolescents and adults Criteria for determining who is eligible for mental health services through the Department.

Massachusetts court rules and standards

District Court Department Standards of judicial practice: civil commitment and authorization of medical treatment for mental illness 

Probate and Family Court Standing Order 4-11: Administrative process for uncontested Rogers reviews and extensions. A Rogers guardianship allows the court to give the guardian authority to agree to extraordinary treatment for an incapacitated person who can’t agree to treatment themself. 

Uniform Trial Court rules for civil commitment proceedings for alcohol and substance use disorders G. L. c.123 § 35

Massachusetts Executive Orders

EO 422 Services for mentally ill individuals under age 19


DMH forms, Dept. of Mental Health.

Mental health forms, Mass. Trial Court.

Uncontested extension of order for antipsychotic medications (Rogers), Mass. Probate and Family Court.

Selected case law

Garcia v. Commonwealth, 487 Mass. 97 (2021)
The temporary involuntary hospitalization of a criminal defendant at a facility other than Bridgewater State Hospital, following a finding that he was not criminally responsible by reason of mental illness violated the defendant's substantive due process rights, where the hospitalization implicated a fundamental liberty right, and where the temporary commitment was not narrowly tailored to a compelling government interest.

In the Matter of D.B., 2020 Mass. App. Div. 74 (2020)
"By executing a health care proxy, an individual can determine in advance that her attorney or another competent person of her choice, rather than a judge, will make ... medical decisions on her behalf," including decisions about antipsychotic medication. 

In the Matter of G.P. , 473 Mass. 112 (2015). 
"Discussion of G. L. c. 123, § 35, which authorizes... involuntary civil commitment ...where there is a likelihood of serious harm as a result of the person's alcoholism or substance abuse, or both... Discussion of the Uniform Trial Court Rules for Civil Commitment Proceedings for Alcohol and Substance Abuse, which will take effect in February, 2016." Clear and convincing evidence as standard of proof.

In the Matter of M.C., 481 Mass. 336 (2019)
"Civil commitment proceedings under G. L. c. 123, § 16 (b), are presumptively open to the public." G. L. c. 123, § 5, does not express a preference for any particular location; and the Standards of Judicial Practice for Civil Commitment and Authorization of Medical Treatment for Mental Illness should be modified to ensure that civil commitment hearings are open to the public and are adequately recorded.

Massachusetts General Hospital v. C.R., 484 Mass. 472 (2020)
Discusses "boarding" of mentally ill patients in emergency departments until an appropriate bed can be found. 

Pembroke Hospital v. D.L., 482 Mass. 346 (2019)
Discharge. If a judge denies a petition for involuntary commitment, the hospital must release the person from involuntary restraint. "A mental health facility discharges an individual under G. L. c. 123 only when that individual is set at liberty from involuntary restraint, and not when he or she is released from care."

Rogers v. Commissioner of the Dept. of Mental Health , 390 Mass. 489 (1983). Outlines the requirements to be met in order to involuntarily administer anti-psychotic medications.

Rosie D. v. Romney , 410 F.Supp. 2d 18 (2006) 
Found that Massachusetts "violated ...provisions of the Medicaid Act by failing to offer necessary medical services to children in this Commonwealth who suffer from serious emotional disturbances."

Web sources

Apply for mental health services, Department of Mental Health
How to apply for services. There is now one application for both adults and children.

Campus mental health know your rights: a guide for students who want to seek help for mental illness or emotional distress, Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, 2017

Children's behavioral health initiative (CBHI) , Children's Law Center of Massachusetts. "an effort by MassHealth to provide more community-based behavioral health or mental health services to youth under the age of 21 who have MassHealth and who meet certain criteria. Sometimes these services are also called "Rosie D." services." Explains eligibility and more. See also: Quick Reference Children's Behavioral Health Initiative (Rosie D. Services) [2013]

DMH resource guides, Department of Mental Health, Health and Human Services

  • DMH Resource Guide
    A handy listing of the cities and towns will direct you to the appropriate DMH Site Office and contact.
  • DMH Consumer and Family Resource guide
    Tailored to the needs of consumers and families.
  • DMH Multicultural Populations Resource Guide
    Contains information about agencies and institutions in the Commonwealth that offer culturally and linguistically appropriate services.
  • DMH Young Adult Resource Guide
    Developed to reflect the changing needs of the young adult population who need assistance in reaching their goals.
  • Emergency Services Programs (ESP) Resource Guide
    Lists all ESPs statewide and toll-free crisis number

Extreme risk guide, Dept. of Mental Health, 2018.
"This guide provides information on resources that may be helpful to individuals, who are seeking an extreme risk protective order, or who had an extreme risk protective order issued against them."

Mental health care , Mass. Legal Help. Geared toward dealing with insurance companies or MassHealth. "This part of the website tells you how to get insurers like MassHealth to pay for your or your family's mental health services. We do not talk about how to get onto MassHealth or where to get free services. We do answer questions about how to get services paid for once you have public or private insurance."

Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee . An independent agency of the SJC, provides both advice and direct representation. Their Resources and Publications include:

Parents' how-to guide to children's mental health services in Massachusetts, 3d ed., 2011, Boston Bar Association
Includes steps for getting help, paying for services, services in your child's school, and more.

Section 35 Commission report (7-1-2019)
Recommendations of the committee charged to study Section 35 commitments, or involuntary inpatient treatment for people with a substance abuse disorder in Massachusetts.

What to know about section 35 civil commitments in Massachusetts, WBUR, July 3, 2019.
Provides an overview of the process and statistics concerning involuntary commitment for drug or alcohol addiction.

Print sources

CPCS mental health proceedings in Massachusetts: a manual for defense counsel, MCLE, 2020

Mental health law (Mass Practice v.53), Thomson West, 2007 with supplement.

Mental health proceedings under Chapter 123, Judicial Institute, Spring 2011



Law library locations and phone numbers Library locations 
Reference librarians online Chat with a law librarian 
Reference librarians via email
Last updated: April 14, 2022