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

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What if the patient continues to need involuntary care?

Section 304(b) provides for extended treatment of individuals subject to a prior Section 303 ruling. Involuntary treatment (inpatient or outpatient) may be extended for up to 90 days. Section 305 provides for extensions up to 180 days.

What if an individual does not comply with outpatient treatment?

Outpatient treatment such as medication, individual or group counseling, or other therapy may be needed. If an individual does not comply with the mandated treatment (one example is noncompliance with medications), Section 306 of the Act provides that he or she may be mandated to have a hearing to determine the need for treatment in a more restrictive setting.

What is a mental health hearing?

It is a civil (non-criminal) proceeding to determine if additional treatment is needed. Hearings are non-adversarial and usually brief. Participants are guided by an attorney on their roles.

What happens at a mental health hearing?

Petitioners or others testify about the behavior that they have observed. The patient may testify and call witnesses. An attorney known as the County Mental Health Solicitor represents the treatment facility. The psychiatrist reports on the individual's mental illness. The Mental Heath Review Officer decides if continuing treatment is necessary.

Can patients have legal representation at mental health hearings?

The Public Defender's Office provides representation at no cost to patients at mental health hearings. Private attorneys may also provide representation at the patient's expense.

May the patient waive the right to a hearing?

Yes, under the Act the patient has the right to agree to or to stipulate to an extension of their treatment, in which case a hearing is not necessary. Stipulation means that the patient and her/his attorney agree with the facility that a given period of ongoing treatment is acceptable.

What if an inmate of a detention facility or jail experiences a behavioral health crisis?

Individuals incarcerated in county prisons or in detention at municipal jails or holding facilities may also be eligible for an involuntary hospitalization if they meet the criteria of Section 302.


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