Seals of the Court of Appeals and Superior Court
District of Columbia Courts

Mental Health and Mental Habilitation FAQs

Can anyone review a mental habilitation case court file?

No. Mental habilitation cases are confidential. All hearings are closed to the public. Only the parties involved may see the case file.

Can anyone review my mental health case if I have been committed?

Yes. Mental health cases are not confidential and are open to the public for review. Anyone can request to see any case files on record.

How do I get assistance for a family member who is intellectually disabled?

Mental Habilitation cases are initiated with the filing of a "Petition for Commitment of an Intellectually Disabled Person" and supporting "Affidavit of Petitioner" by a parent or guardian of the intellectually disabled person or by a representative of the Department of Human Services.

How do I get assistance for a person with intellectual disabilities?

A case may be initiated with the filing of a petition with the Court (at the Central Intake Center, Room JM-540 of the Moultrie Courthouse) and supporting affidavits by a parent, guardian or by a representative of the Department of Disability Services (DDS). You may also contact DDS which is located 1125 15th St. NW, Washington, DC 20005, (202) 730-1700 or on line at

How should I begin the process of getting the person help?

If a loved one or someone you live with needs help for a mental health problem, the person may go or be taken to a community mental health center. A doctor will examine the individual and determine if the person appears mentally ill and dangerous to self and/or others. The doctor will decide whether emergency hospitalization is needed.

Is there a community mental health center located in the District of Columbia?

You can contact the DC Department of Mental Health’s intake center at:
DC Department of Mental Health Mental Health Services Division 35 K Street NE Washington, DC 20001 202-442-4202
You may also call the District of Columbia’s 24-hour Mental Health Hotline: 1-888-7WE HELP or 1-888-793-4357
The Department of Mental Health may be able to help an individual with continuing support after they have been released from a mental health facility.

Is there an alternative if I have been unable to get the mentally ill person to a doctor for an examination or treatment?

If you have been unsuccessful in getting a mentally ill person to a doctor for examination and treatment and you are a parent, spouse, or legal guardian of that person, you may file a petition to commit in the Central Intake Center (Moultrie Courthouse, room JM-540) of the DC Superior Court’s Family Court, 500 Indiana Ave., NW 20001, (202) 879-1212.

Is there some other place to receive additional assistance?

"After a person has been released from a mental health facility, the individual may need continuing support. Contact your local community mental health center for more information. If you are looking for information on mental illnesses, you may contact: National Institute of Mental Health Public Inquiry 15C17 6001 Executive Boulevard Room 8184, MSC 9663 Bethesda, MD 20892-9663 301-443-4513 To receive the information guide ""Getting Help for the Mentally Ill"" (Publication 97-0544 PM5), contact the Mental Health Clerk's Office in the Moultrie Courthouse, Room 4475, telephone 202-879-1040."

What happens if the doctor at the community mental health center determines the person may be mentally ill?

If the doctor determines that the person is mentally ill and needs be hospitalized, the person may be transported to St. Elizabeths Hospital. At St. Elizabeths Hospital, a psychiatrist will examine them and review the community mental health center's request for hospitalization. If the doctor at St. Elizabeths Hospital determines that the person has symptoms of a mental illness and is likely to injure himself or herself and/or others, the individual will be involuntarily hospitalized for a period set by the DC Law.

What if the person agrees to seek help?

An individual may voluntarily admit him- or herself to a mental health facility for treatment. To be admitted to a private hospital, the person must have insurance or evidence of ability to pay. The public (i.e., no cost) mental health hospital in the District of Columbia is:
St. Elizabeths Hospital 1100 Alabama Ave., SE Washington, DC 20032 202-562-4000
An individual must be evaluated by a doctor who will determine if the person should be admitted. To set up an appointment for evaluation call (202) 673-9319.

What should I do in an emergency situation?

In the event there is an immediate emergency, and the mentally ill person is refusing to go to a community mental health center, you can call the Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program (CPEP) at 202-673-9319, which is open 24 hours a day. CPEP is located at the South Community Mental Health Center, 1905 E St., S.E Washington, DC.
You may also contact the Department of Mental Health’s Mobile Crisis Center (202) 673-9300 which will send a staff member to your home, or wherever the individual may be, to examine them. They will make a determination if the alleged mentally ill person needs immediate involuntary hospitalization.
In extreme emergencies you may call 911.

When can I get assistance for a family member who appears to be mentally ill?

Under DC law, before a person can be committed and/or forced to accept treatment, the person must be found to be mentally ill and dangerous to self and/or others because of the mental illness.

When is a person considered a danger to self and/or others as a result of the mental illness?

"Danger to self" means if that person is not able to care for him- or herself or is likely to inadvertently place him- or herself in a position of danger or is likely to suffer harm. "Danger to others" means if the person is likely to perform some act or acts either intentionally or unintentionally to others and such act or acts may be either violent or nonviolent. Please note that drug addiction and alcoholism do not qualify as a mental illness.

Where are these community mental health centers located?

"There are a number of centers. The office hours vary from center to center. Be sure to telephone before going to the center: Northeast Community Mental Health Center 35 K Street NE Washington, DC 20001 202-442-4215 Northwest Community Mental Health Center 1125 Spring Road NW Washington, DC 20010 202-576-6512 Multi-Cultural Center 1250 U Street, NW Washington, DC 20009 202-673-2058"

Where do I go to file a petition to commit?

The Central Intake Center of the Family Court is located on the East Wing of the John Marshall level of the District of Columbia Courthouse, 500 Indiana Avenue NW, Room JM-520, Washington, DC 20001. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Phone: 202-879-1212.

Who do you contact first?

If you desire to initiate the process through the Department of Disability Services (DDS), you may get further information by calling 202-730-1700.
If you are a parent or guardian and you would like to file the petition yourself, you may contact the Central Intake Center of the DC Superior Court’s Family Court.