Involuntary Commitment (IVC) for Substance Use Disorder

If you believe someone you know is an immediate danger to self or others, call 911 for a well-being check. As a family member or close friend, if you believe your loved one is in danger, you can get involved by seeking involuntary commitment. 

What is Involuntary Commitment for Substance Use?

An IVC for substance abuse is when someone with a substance abuse disorder can be legally obligated to obtain emergency treatment. In order for an IVC, the individual must meet criteria in South Dakota law (SDCL 34-20A-63) which includes both being a substance user who continually lacks self-control in regards to their alcohol and/or drug use and one of the following:

  • Has threatened, attempted or inflicted physical harm on self or on another, and unless committed, is likely to harm self or others.
  • Is incapacitated by the effects of alcohol or drugs
  • Is using drugs or alcohol while pregnant


Any responsible person may apply. For example, a spouse, relative, friend or physician can apply to the Clerk of Courts in the county where the person has residence or is currently located.

What next?

Step 1: Petition

  • Any responsible person may apply for a petition.
  • To apply contact the Clerk of Courts in the county in which the person resides or is current present in.
  • Application process:
    • The Clerk of Courts will take the application to the Judge, who will appoint an attorney to represent the petitioner.
    • An addiction counselor will complete an assessment and make treatment recommendations based on the individual’s needs.
    • Within 5 days, the attorney completes and submits a petition to the courts.
      • Even though you made a petition/application, this does not mean that your loved one will be committed. There has to be a threat, attempt, or act of physical harm to self or others or the likelihood that harm may occur before the court would commit a person to treatment services without his or her consent.

Step 2: Hearing:

  • The individual has the right to his or her own attorney.
  • The court has 10 business days to have a hearing.
  • The person submitting the petition and the addiction counselor may be asked to testify at the court hearing. The individual will be present in court unless their presence is likely to be injurious to the individual.
  • The Judge will determine if commitment requirements are met based on the testimony of the petitioner and the addiction counselor. If the requirements are met, the court will make an order of commitment to an approved treatment facility that is able to provide appropriate and beneficial treatment.

Step 3: Commitment

  • Treatment services: Treatment will be arranged by the addiction counselor completing the assessment and treatment is based on their recommendations.
  • The commitment period is up to 90 days. The actual length of commitment is based on the individual’s needs.


Please be aware that payment for treatment services, under the involuntary commitment, may be assigned to insurance, private pay, other 3rd party payers, a combination of state and federal funding, or Medicaid.

 For more information, call 988 or search our online database:

Try the following keyword search terms:

  • 911 Services
  • County Clerk of Courts Offices
  • Involuntary Substance Abuse Treatment Orders
  • General Assessment for Substance Abuse


Disclaimer: This HelpSheet is developed by the Helpline Center. HelpSheets provide a brief overview of the designated topic. For more information, call 211 or text your zip code to 898211.

Updated: September 2023