Navigating the complexities of an LPS conservatorship in San Diego can be daunting. If you have a loved one grappling with severe mental health challenges, understanding this process can offer both of you a path toward assistance. 

What is an LPS Conservatorship?

LPS, or Lanterman-Petris-Short conservatorships, cater to adults gravely disabled due to mental health disorders, ensuring they receive proper care while preserving their rights. The term "gravely disabled" is often legally defined as an inability to provide for one's basic personal needs for food, clothing, or shelter due to a mental disorder.

  • Serious Mental Health Conditions: LPS conservatorships are typically appropriate for individuals with serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or severe clinical depression, among others.
  • Inability to Care for Oneself: The individual must be unable to provide for their basic personal needs. This doesn't necessarily mean complete incapability; rather, the person's mental health condition makes it dangerous or impossible for them to live safely without supervision.
  • Not Merely for Substance Abuse: An LPS conservatorship is not appropriate for someone suffering solely from substance abuse. However, if substance abuse co-occurs with a severe mental disorder that results in the person being gravely disabled, then an LPS conservatorship might be considered.
  • Treatment Requirement: One of the primary objectives of an LPS conservatorship is to provide or ensure the individual receives proper mental health treatment, which they might have been refusing or unable to seek on their own.
  • Short-Term Crisis: It can also be suitable for individuals who are experiencing a short-term crisis that renders them gravely disabled, even if they have not previously been diagnosed with a mental disorder.
  • Less Restrictive Alternatives Have Been Considered: Before an LPS conservatorship is granted, less restrictive alternatives to conservatorship should typically be considered and determined to be inadequate or inappropriate.

It's essential to understand that initiating an LPS conservatorship is a significant step, as it involves restricting an individual's personal freedoms to make decisions about their life and well-being. As such, the process is regulated by stringent legal standards to ensure that it's used appropriately and that the rights of the proposed conservatee are protected.

Starting the LPS Process

  1. Referral: The journey starts when an officer or an individual recognizes someone as gravely disabled and refers them to the San Diego Public Conservator's Office.
  2. Professional Evaluation: A mental health professional gauges if an LPS conservatorship is suitable.

In many jurisdictions, including San Diego County in the context of LPS (Lanterman-Petris-Short) conservatorships, a family member can make a referral to the public guardian or public conservator's office if they believe that a relative is gravely disabled due to a mental disorder and may need a conservatorship. However, making a referral doesn't automatically result in a conservatorship.

Legal Proceedings

  1. Petition: The Public Conservator’s Office files a petition with the San Diego Superior Court if needed.
  2. Investigation: The court appoints an investigator for more insights and assigns an attorney to represent the proposed conservatee's interest in the matter.
  3. Court Hearing: A hearing is convened where evidence is presented. If proven that the individual can't cater to basic needs due to mental disorders, the conservatorship is granted.

What Happens if a Conservator is Appointed?

Conservator's Role: The court-appointed conservator makes decisions concerning mental health treatments, living arrangements, and even finances. The Conservator can arrange for the Conservatee to be placed in a secured facility and approve the use of psychotropic medications; however, the Conservatee can refuse to take the medications despite the Conservator's approval. 

Annual Review: The conservatorship undergoes yearly reviews, where a court investigator reassesses the situation. It can be renewed or terminated based on the findings.


Seeking an LPS conservatorship is a serious undertaking, aiming to protect vulnerable individuals. 

Witnessing a loved one spiral because of serious mental health challenges can be one of the most heart-wrenching experiences a family member or friend can endure. The pain, confusion, and sheer helplessness can be overwhelming. It's a journey filled with countless sleepless nights, unanswered questions, and a longing for the vibrant person they once knew.

If you find yourself in this trying situation, remember: that you're not powerless. For those whose loved ones grapple not just with substance abuse, but a profound mental health condition hindering their ability to care for themselves, the path of an LPS conservatorship in San Diego could offer a beacon of hope. It's not just about legal proceedings but about giving your cherished one a chance at protection, care, and, ultimately, a semblance of the life they deserve.

Though the journey might seem complex, it's a testament to the unwavering love and commitment you have toward ensuring their safety and well-being. Taking steps towards understanding and potentially securing a conservatorship can be the lifeline that pulls them back from the precipice, and brings them closer to a place of healing and stability. As you navigate this path, remember you're acting out of profound love and dedication. You are their advocate, their voice, and possibly their best chance at a brighter tomorrow.

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