Can you make someone go to rehab in Tennessee?

Rehab in TN

Watching someone you love struggle with addiction is painful, especially when they are refusing to accept help. It is natural to then wonder if you can force them to go to rehab. Tennessee has specific laws on the books that allow loved ones to intervene when someone is having a mental health crisis and is refusing help.

However, the law does not name addiction and substance abuse specifically. So, while you cannot legally force someone to go to drug rehab in Tennessee, there are laws to help families intervene during a mental health crisis.

It’s important to note that many people battling addiction also have co-occurring behavioral disorders, and it is not unusual for someone to enter drug treatment after a court-ordered psych evaluation. At JourneyPure, I’ve witnessed cases where court-ordered treatment becomes a bridge to successful drug treatment, but it’s always better if the individual enters treatment voluntarily.

How do I find someone rehab in Tennessee?

A quick search online can help you locate drug and alcohol rehab options in your area, but you should always dig in further to make sure your loved one gets the best care possible. Take time to read about what kind of therapies they offer and check out reviews from people who have been through the program. Special accreditations, research partnerships and having staff members in recovery can go a long way.

Before deciding on a treatment center for your loved one, make sure that the center meets the following requirements:

Treatment Center Checklist

What are my options if they don’t want to go?

Denial is what drives addiction and dealing with someone in that mindset is frustrating and overwhelming. It may be tempting to jump to a court-ordered mandate for treatment, but many addicts and alcoholics end up getting help after having an honest conversation with family and friends. If that doesn’t convince them, you can work with an interventionist to help you plan a formal intervention. If they will still not accept help and you’ve exhausted other options, involuntary commitment might be the last resort to save your loved one’s life.

If you believe your loved one meets the criteria for involuntary psychiatric commitment in Tennessee, your first step is to petition the courts. To do this, you must fill out the appropriate form and submit it to a circuit court judge. In most cases, form MH-5099 is the correct one to use. If you have questions, consider speaking to a lawyer to get advice specific to your situation. on which Tennessee involuntary commitment form is right for your situation.

If your loved one is threatening their own life and they need urgent help, you should call the police immediately. In Tennessee, law enforcement, doctors, and mental health crisis responders can involuntarily commit someone without a court order. A visit from the police or crisis specialists can be a catalyst for change.

Do they have the Baker Act in Tennessee?

The Baker Act is a Florida law. However, the term is used generically to refer to laws that allow for involuntary treatment on the basis of psychiatric illness. The legal language varies from state-to-state, but the basic idea is the same.

In Tennessee’s version of the Baker Act, someone must meet all criteria below to qualify for an involuntary evaluation:

  • They have a mental illness or serious emotional disturbance.
  • They pose an “immediate substantial likelihood of serious harm.”
  • They need care, training, or treatment.
  • All available less drastic alternatives are not suitable to meet the needs of the person.

Involuntary commitment doesn’t mean immediate treatment. Typically, the individual is detained until a bed is available. The average wait time for a bed is around 25 hours.

Are there any other TN addiction resources?

Yes, the state offers numerous resources for those battling addiction, including medically assisted detox and recovery support services. Some addiction centers, like JourneyPure’s Knoxville rehab, accept public insurance, such as Medicaid and Medicare. Ultimately, if you or a loved one are battling addiction in Tennessee, you won’t be left to struggle alone.


Tennessean: “How Tennessee’s involuntary psychiatric treatment law works.”
Treatment Advocacy Center: “Tennessee”
University of Florida Health: “Baker Act”


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  1. Have a niece who has been missing for a couple of months. Missing person report has been filed. Just trying to figure out what our plan needs to be. She has refused to get help in the past.

    1. Hi Patti, I am sorry to hear about your niece. You did the right thing filing a missing person report. In the meantime, don’t wait for her to turn up before you arrange treatment. Find a treatment center now rather than later. If she has health insurance, get as much information as you can to do a pre-authorization. It’s best to approach her with a spot in treatment already reserved when she resurfaces. She will be much more likely to accept the help immediately if all she needs to do is say “Yes.”

      The most important thing is that she knows that there is help available to her. She is lucky to have family members like yourself looking after her. Best of luck to you!

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