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5150 is a section of California's Welfare and Institutions Code which deals with involuntary confinement of a person for the purposes of a psychiatric evaluation. The term has come to mean both the written request and the client themselves. A 5150 can be written by any peace officer in the state of California and by clinicians specifically designated by individual counties.

The 5150 lasts for up to 72 hours from when it was written. During that time a client is supposed to be evaluated by a mental health professional to determine if a psychiatric admission is warranted. If admitted, only a psychiatrist may rescind the 5150 and allow the client to either remain voluntarily or be discharged.

5150 criteria

The criteria for writing a 5150 includes danger to self, danger to others, and/or grave disability - as noted below. The conditions must exist under the context of a mental illness and the person must be refusing psychiatric treatment.

  1. Danger to self - the person must be an immediate threat to themselves, usually by being suicidal. Someone who is severely depressed and wishes to die would fall under this category.
  2. Danger to others - the person must be an immediate threat to someone else. A person hearing voices telling them to kill someone would fall under this category.
  3. Gravely disabled, Adult - the person (over 18 years old) is unable to provide for their food, clothing, and/or shelter - and there is no indication that anyone is willing or able to assist them in procuring these needs. This does not necessarily mean homeless, as a homeless person who is able to seek housing (even in a temporary shelter) when weather demands it would not fall under this category.
  4. Gravely disabled, Minor - the person (under 18 years old) is unable to provide for their food, clothing, and/or shelter - even if these are supplied directly.

Popular culture references

Van Halen got the name for their 1986 album from this code (c.f. 5150 (album)). The inside album cover includes a photo where all the band members are in straitjackets. Eddie Van Halen would also name his home recording studio at home and a series of guitar amplifiers made by Peavey Electronics after this code.

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