California LPS Mental Health Handbook

If you have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness and have been deemed seriously disabled by a qualified professional, you may be placed under what is known as LPS care. inewsource has compiled this guide to help people, including people with serious mental illness and their loved ones, navigate the complex legal process.

Conservatives are not for everyone, and how inewsource reported to be part of a faulty system. The legal process takes some of a person’s most important life decisions—where they can live, whether and when they can leave, treatment—and puts them in the hands of others.

This guide contains resources for those who want to learn more. The reporter is not a mental health expert or a lawyer. Readers should consult health and legal experts for additional advice.

About LPS conservatorship

  • What is an LPS conservatorship?

There are different types of conservatorships in California. LPS conservatorships, named after the short Lanterman-Petris Act, are legal processes that apply to people diagnosed with a serious mental illness as defined by state law. This includes schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, clinical depression, and others.

This type of guardianship is different from testamentary guardianship.

Under LPS care, someone else can make financial decisions and direct the person to receive treatment, such as medication. Often the guardian may be a county public guardian or similar office.

Officials must place the person in the least restrictive environment, but if they decide it is necessary, the caregiver can be kept indoors.

Temporary conservatorships last up to 30 days, and counties use that time to determine whether a longer-term agreement is needed. What’s called a permanent guardianship lasts up to a year and can be renewed through the court every year.

The LPS Act also regulates short-term involuntary psychiatric holds, such as 72-hour holds, known as 5150s, and 14-day holds, known as 5250s.

Who has the right?

To be considered for LPS guardianship, a person must be diagnosed with a condition listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, such as:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • Clinical depression
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Chronic alcoholism

This person should also be considered seriously disabled, meaning they are unable to take care of basic needs such as food, clothing or shelter as a result of their illness and are unwilling or unable to accept treatment voluntarily.

How does someone come into care?

State law limits who can initiate a guardianship. It’s not as simple as calling the county and saying your loved one should be treated as such, and being found to have a severe disability doesn’t automatically put them in foster care either.

Guardianship proceedings usually begin during a short-term psychiatric stay. Sometimes a person was hospitalized several times.

A qualified professional must evaluate the individual before referring the case to the public guardian’s office. If the person is in prison, his referral must be provided by the attending physician in the prison.

In San Diego, these petitions are handled by the County Public Conservator’s Office.

The county then conducts an investigation to determine whether the individual is a danger to himself or others and has a serious disability, as well as possible alternatives to custody. If investigators determine that a guardianship is necessary, the county can petition the court, which has final approval to establish a guardianship.

Individuals being considered for guardianship have the right to an attorney and can request a jury trial to determine whether they are seriously disabled.

Where should I go for help?


  • Disability Rights California: A nonprofit agency designated by federal law to protect the interests of Californians with disabilities, including custody issues.
  • Jewish Family Service: The agency’s services include a patient advocacy program. He monitors and works with people receiving behavioral health services in inpatient psychiatric units and other facilities.
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness, San Diego and Imperial County Chapter: NAMI San Diego works with family members and loved ones with mental illness, providing services such as support groups and advocacy.
  • San Diego County Office of the Public Guardian: The Office of the Public Guardian receives and reviews petitions for LPS guardianship. It determines which ones are submitted to the court for final approval.

Other resources

Creatives without limits



This undated illustration details the conservation process.

inewsource investigative reporter Jennifer Bowman covered this story while participating in the USC Annenberg Center for Medical JournalismCalifornia Scholarship 2022 A native of San Diego, Bowman has been involved in local government for more than a decade and has worked for inewsource for nearly three years. She usually covers the south San Diego area and Imperial counties.

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