Mental Health Advance Directives

Just as you might make an advance directive for your physical health and physical care, you can now make an advance directive for mental health. Only 25 states have passed legislation establishing authority for psychiatric advance directives, but there is a growing awareness and interest in obtaining such documents as awareness grows of the importance of mental health. Even in those states that do not currently have legislation specifically recognizing the authority of a mental health directive, similar care is available under healthcare power of attorney statues.

A mental health advance directive establishes the type of care that you would desire should you become incapacitated and unable to make decisions on your own. These advance directives are very similar to other healthcare documents in that you establish who you would like to be your agent, what your wishes are in terms of care and medications, and when you no longer wish to receive treatment. You can also identify preferred facilities, mental health professionals, and programs if you choose to do so.

As with other estate planning documents, the mental health advance directive would remain active unless and until you choose to revoke it. The mental health advance directive documents are not a mandatory part of estate planning in Maryland; however, like other healthcare powers of attorney, it is recommended in order to ensure your wishes are honored by agents, caregivers, and health care providers.

For more information, the National Resource Center on Psychiatric Advance Directives maintains a comprehensive website with state-by-state information: http://www.nrc-pad.org