Authorization and Release of Information from Commitment Division Files
The Commitment Division of the Probate Court handles cases involving both emergency and non-emergency admissions to treatment of persons alleged to be mentally ill or chemically dependent. The Probate Court also has jurisdiction to handle cases in which the Department of Disabilities and Special Needs (DDSN) is seeking to involuntarily admit a person with mental retardation or related disability to the services of its agency. In Richland County, the Commitment Division of the Probate Court generally handles those cases.
Unlike other Probate Court case files, the court files in all of the above types of cases are confidential. Therefore, the proper way to secure the release of those records is by obtaining authorization for release from the person who was the subject of the court action, his or her parent or guardian (if the individual is under the age of 16), or from his or her legal guardian, if the person is not competent. Because of state and federal confidentiality laws governing those records, we have developed a very specific authorization and release form to secure the documents; a general release of information form does not meet the requirements set out in state and federal law. In addition, a subpoena is generally not sufficient, and commitment records are not subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.
The Court is pleased to provide a form on this website for your use in requesting such records. You will need Adobe Acrobat in order to download the form. However, there are circumstances when a release might not be necessary or sufficient, if the applicable confidentiality statute provides an exception or restriction. Some examples include:
- If you want a copy of your own records a release is not necessary, but you will need a copy of your driver’s license or another photo I.D.
- You are the court-appointed attorney or guardian ad litem in a criminal or family court case. If you supply us with a copy of the order appointing you, along with a written request for the information you need, a release will not be necessary.
- If you are the parent or guardian of a child under the age of sixteen, a release is not necessary. In South Carolina, children age sixteen or older can admit themselves to mental health or chemical dependency treatment, so, if competent, they must sign an authorization to release information themselves before their records can be disclosed.
- Though a subpoena cannot be used to secure commitment records related to Department of Mental Health, private mental health, or chemical dependency treatment, a subpoena by a court of law can be used to secure copies of court records regarding DDSN cases, as allowed by that agency’s confidentiality statute.
- If you are a law enforcement, health, welfare, or other state or federal agency seeking information regarding an individual’s mental health treatment from the Court, a written request stating the purpose for the release of information may be sufficient.
- Federal law governing chemical dependency treatment records is so strict that if a release cannot be obtained from the individual who was treated, a court order meeting very strict requirements may be the only way to obtain records.
Individuals will not be charged for copies of their own records, nor will an attorney or guardian ad litem representing the person, the parent of a minor under the age of sixteen, or a legal guardian. All others will be charged for copies at the per page rate in effect at the time of the request. Please allow us at least 24 hours to fulfill your request for records. If you have any questions, please feel free to call the Commitment Division of the Richland County Probate Court at (803) 576-1965.
Authorization and Release of Information from Commitment Division Files Form