People who are not capable of consenting or are unwilling to accept voluntary admission must be informed by the judge of their rights to a commitment hearing and to a lawyer of his/her choosing at his/her own expense. The judge must appoint a lawyer for all those who are unrepresented.

Prior to the commitment hearing, the person has the right to receive a written explanation of the commitment process and the legal protections it provides, and to have the contents of the written material explained by an attorney prior to the hearing.

Those rights (Due Process Rights) include:

  • the right to present any defense, including independent evaluations, expert testimony or testimony of other witnesses
  • the right to be present at the hearing and to testify
  • the right to appeal and to have a jury trial upon appeal

The person also must be told:

  • the reason for detention
  • the place, date, and time of the hearing
  • that the burden of proof is on the state to provide clear and convincing evidence that the commitment criteria have been met.

To discuss a complaint or concern about a licensed mental health care provider in Virginia, contact

    Virginia Department of Health Professions
    6606 West Broad Street, 4th Floor
    Richmond, VA 23230-1717

Board of Medicine(804) 622-9908
Board of Nursing(804) 622-9909
Board of Pharmacy(804) 622-9911
Board of Professional Counselors(804) 662-9912
Board of Psychology(804) 622-9913
Board of Social Work(804) 622-9914

Western State Hospital staff members are ready to help in resolving any health care or rights concerns of patients and families. If the individual staff or the treatment team is unable to resolve your concern, the Facility Director and Patient Advocate will work to remediate the issue.

Also, Western State Hospital is accredited by The Joint Commission.  If patients or their families have concerns about patient care or safety which have not been addressed by the hospital, they may contact The Joint Commission’s Office of Quality Monitoring at 800-994-6610 or

The Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness Act (PAIMI)

The PAIMI Act is a federal law that provides for the establishment of patient rights protection systems in each state. These systems protect eligible persons with mental illness from abuse, neglect, discrimination, exploitation, and other violations of their rights, by providing them and their families with free rights information, referrals, and advising, advocacy and legal representation services.

For further information about Virginia’s PAIMI system, or to apply for PAIMI services, please contact the disAbility Law Center of Virginia (dLCV) at 800-552-3962 or 804-225-2042 (voice or TDD/TTY available) or . Additional PAIMI and dLCV information is available on the web at disAbility Law Center of Virginia

What are some of a patient’s rights?

  • to have your rights explained to you upon admission and to have them posted in the facility for viewing
  • freedom from physical and mental abuse or harm
  • freedom from excessive or inappropriate restraints and seclusion
  • to refuse medication or ask for a change in medication
  • access to a telephone
  • letters to and from anyone without interference
  • private conversations with lawyers, clergy, and others you choose
  • to see visitors
  • to practice your religion
  • to exercise your right to vote
  • to wear your own clothing
  • to use personal funds and manage your personal affairs
  • to have and use personal possessions
  • to receive appropriate medical treatment when necessary
  • to have a treatment plan that meets your needs
  • to participate in developing your treatment plan and to be told of its contents
  • reasonable notice of upcoming discharge