Gravely Disabled

What exactly is it?

Definition? Criteria?

Caretakers & Parents

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The statutory definition of commitment for grave disability is

“a condition in which a person, as a result of a mental disorder, is unable to provide for his basic personal needs, for food, clothing, or shelter.’  CAL. WELl. & INST. CODE § 5008(h)  5250

“a finding of imminent danger as evidenced by a recent overt act, attempt or threat,”  CA Civil Jury Instructions 4002 *  Capacity Declaration GC 335 *   Grave Disability Includes Financial & Health Issues

Be sure to check out our main page on Conservatorship for an introduction

Grave disability

From the LPS Lanterman Petris Short act, grave disability is defined with three seemingly simple reasons – criteria:

  • Inability to provide for

Need for food

  • Cannot distinguish between food and non food
  • Endangers health by gross negligence in needed diet and nutrition
  • Begging or stealing food
  • Eating out of refuse or garbage cans
  • Ordering meals at restaurants without having funds
  • Demonstrates excessive and consistent food preferences or aversions which endanger health (except for genuine religious reasons)
  • Having spoiled food in refrigerator or no food for a lengthy period of time in the house

Need for clothing

  • Engaging in public nudity or “unthinking” exhibitionism
  • Engaging in bizarre style of dressing that does would be apt to lead to social difficulties (if not used by social group or personal preferences)
  • Wearing filthy or soiled clothes with lack of recognition of personal hygiene problem
  • Wearing disheveled clothes for prolonged period of time

Need for shelter

  • Leading a nomadic existence with an inability to establish stable community living, including living in the streets or other public places
  • Unable to locate housing and make the appropriate arrangements with an inability to ask for or accept assistance in doing so
  • Unable to manage his or her household in such a way as to avoid clear dangers to health
  • Presence in household of filthy conditions) fire hazards that the person cannot correct, vermin infestations, and lack of bathing and toilet facilities
  • Resists leaving residence even if evicted or the residence is sold
  • Hoarding nonsensical items while misplacing necessary items

Financial incompetence

  • Unable to earn an income and unable to avail himself of financial assistance from public or private agencies
  • Completely dependent on family or friends to provide financial assistance for basic personal needs
  • Has funds but no longer knows or understands the location and/or extent of them
  • Refusing to expend funds to the extent of endangering personal health and/or safety
  • Has no funds and does not see this as a problem
  • Grossly and inappropriately expends funds needed for basic personal needs
  • Has untrue beliefs as to having extensive money or property
  • Mismanages funds so that rent and utility bills remain unpaid
  • Unable to accept inability or loss of ability to understand complex financial matters leaving him vulnerable to manipulation by unscrupulous individuals

Incompetence in regard to health

  • Unable or unwilling to follow medical instruction regarding treatment and self care which are essential to health
  • Loss of weight or other evidence of malnutrition due to not eating or lack of proper food
  • Wanders away from residence and becomes lost frequently without recognition of the seriousness of the problem
  • Failure to adjust in the community
  • Involved in frequent confrontations with family members or neighbors involving abusive, threatening, or assaultive behavior
  • Engages frequently in disruptive, destructive acts in the home or neighborhood, possibly leading to threatened or actual eviction
  • Engages in bizarre or other behavior which may be self-endangering and/or a threat to others requiring police intervention  Jewish Family Service Summary

Though these criteria may seem simple, they aren’t. For example, just because someone is mentally ill and homeless does not mean that they are gravely disabled. If they can provide a reasonable, executable plan for where they would stay or if they are stable being homeless, then they do not meet LPS criteria. If, on the other hand, they are homeless in a location in which their life or health is often in jeopardy and, as a result of mental illness, they do not comprehend this, then they likely are gravely disabled. These issues achieve marked salience in hearings for 5250‘s in which the argument is made that someone is gravely disabled. It is often helpful to identify which underlying issues lead you to the conclusion rather than requiring the hearing officer to identify the issues. If someone is gravely disabled for an extended period of time, they can be placed on an LPS conservatorship. Note, however, that there are So, below are examples of states or conditions that have been upheld as evidence of grave disability. Note that they extend beyond a simplistic definition relating to food, clothing, and shelter. That is, there are a variety of ways one can demonstrate incompetence in these areas.


the Court, in Addington v. Texas,  held that the need for civil commitment must be provided by clear and convincing evidence. In the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act (LPS), the legislature opted to reduce long-term confinement of the mentally ill. “habeas corpus”  meaning literally “that you have the body”)[1] is a recourse in law through which a person can report an unlawful detention or imprisonment to a court and request that the court order the custodian of the person, usually a prison official, to bring the prisoner to court, to determine whether the detention is lawful.[2]

Conservatorship of Roulet  –  Proof beyond a reasonable doubt

Parham (Test) v J.R. 442 US 584  1979 Gravely Disabled vs dangerous to self and others? The court in Doe I held that the grave disability term was sufficiently precise. The court found that grave disability implicitly required a finding of harm to oneself, i.e. an inability to provide for one’s basic physical needs, and therefore met the constitutional requirement of dangerousness. The right to choose and practice a particular life style is protected by the first amendment rights of association, assembly, and free expression  Law.SCU.Edu  Written 1.1982 *


Case Law if nothing else, the background information is an interesting story.


Kanuri Surgury QAWI, on Habeas Corpus Conservatorship of Carol K. Conservatorship of the Person and Estate of JESSE G HTML

Conservatorship of Chambers

Conservatorship of Davis (1981)

Conservatorship of Smith (1986)

Conservatorship of K.W.

Medicare & You - Mental Health

Medicare & Mental Illness # 11358 2 pages

Medicare & Mental Illness # 10184   

Medicare & Mental Illness # 10184

Our Webpage on Medicare & Mental Health

Main Webpage on Mental Health

Los Angeles Consumer Resources #Directory

Mental Health Consumer Resources

Our webpage on EOC Evidence of Coverage - Plain English, even if they are 2 to 300 pages

Guide to Mental Health Benefits (The Mighty)

guide to mental health benefits


Compliance Assistance Guide from DOL.Gov Health Benefits under Federal Law

Mental Health Videos

You Tube Videos


CMS Learning Aid for Mental Health Professionals


See our Main Webpage on Mental Health

CMS Learning Aid for Mental Health Professionals

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8 comments on “Gravely Disabled – What exactly is it? Definition? Criteria?

  1. im jst wonderng how legal it is to label someone as gravely disabled

    plus i ws labeled this way

    but the thing is i hungry all the time, i wondr if its diabetes and some othr organ problems the reason why im really fatigued. iv been lik this for a long time.

    my psychiatrist cnt figure anythng out.

  2. if an inmate is in jail and was declared gravely disabled by mental health court

    can another court – criminal ignore or refuse that order – determination even if the individual has been mentally ill for years with brain damage and was conserved by the court – legal guardian – conservatorship?

      • No not for trial but to remain In. Jail

        for resdential entry. he walked in wrong mobile home

        my son has horrible nightmares woke up from nap screaming zoomies walked into wrong mobile home.

        In 2014 another indiana order and declare my son as gravely I’ll with brain

        jail evidences present to judge jail not answer for my son will cause more damage

        why shoukd said in jail as legal guardian plan to pay bond 1000 to Brentwood but judge up to 5000 so he would not go to brentwood with proof I have against law in treatment for my son

        • The first thing is that it would be helpful if you were able to express yourself better. I’m not exactly sure of what you are trying to explain. Check out writing or composition classes at your local adult or community college?

          Please contact an attorney in your state. Check the references on our website or you might try

          • I have 2 associate degrees and bachelor degree with 3 to 3.5 graduate with honors at age 55 thank you

  3. Lotta questionable things aimed squarely at otherwise functioning people on the autism spectrum here. Some points would be considered neo Nazism (failure to integrate in community and how it can be construed across cultures) if presented out of context to the general public.

    As always, psychiatrists are ironically socially inept and majorly short handed in self awareness.

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