Frequently Asked Questions About the
Pennsylvania Mental Health Procedures Act of 1976

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Who is the County Mental Health Delegate?

The authority for Section 302 determinations rests with the County Mental Health Administrator. The Administrator can delegate responsibility to individuals who acts on her or his behalf. The Delegates assure fair, correct, and appropriate administration of the procedure for an involuntary admission. In regard to Section 302(a) they assess reports in deciding to issue a warrant.

What is the responsibility of a petitioner?

An individual who files a petition must truthfully describe in writing the behavior that they witnessed in the past 30 days that supports their belief that an individual is a clear and present danger to herself/himself or others. The petitioner may be asked to attend a hearing to testify about the information that they gave about the individual's behavior.

Does filing a petition result in an individual's hospitalization?

The petition may lead to a psychiatric examination if the Delegate feels that one is needed. Hospitalization is decided by the examining psychiatrist based on the requirements of the Act, the information in the petition, and an examination of the individual. Many who receive an examination are helped by counseling or other services without hospitalization.

Can the police or a physician get a psychiatric examination for a mentally ill individual?

Under Section 302(b) police officers or physicians can take an at risk individual to a psychiatric facility without a warrant. This must be based upon personal observation that an individual's behavior indicates that he or she could be severely mentally disabled and pose a clear and present danger to herself/himself. Admission depends upon a psychiatrist's examination.

What type of hospital may provide involuntary treatment?

The Act authorizes the County Administrator to designate one or more providers of involuntary hospitalization. This may be provided by a psychiatric hospital or a psychiatric unit at a general hospital. MCES, Inc. is the sole designated facility for this service in Montgomery County, PA.

How long may an involuntary hospitalization last?

Section 302 provides for an involuntary admission for a period not to exceed 120 hours. Section 303 provides for an extension of involuntary treatment (inpatient or outpatient) for up to 20 days. The extension is determined on the basis of a hearing with the Mental Health Review Officer, an official of the Court of Common Pleas, who can order extended care.


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