Mental Health Procedures Act FAQs

Mental Health Procedures Act FAQs

Of the 10 million people living in Pennsylvania, nearly 335,000 are being treated for a severe mental illness with an estimated 158,000 untreated. Collectively, about 5% of Pennsylvanians experience serious mental health challenges.

Whether you seek treatment for yourself or on behalf of a loved one, you should know Pennsylvania’s laws and treatment options.

Below, we’ll answer some of the most common questions related to the Mental Health Procedures Act.

What Are the Treatment Options?

The state’s Mental Health Procedures Act outlines treatment options, including both voluntary and involuntary treatment.

What Is a 201?

An individual can voluntarily consent to inpatient evaluation and treatment. This is called a “201” and refers to Section 201 in the Act. Anyone 14 years or older can voluntarily consent, and a psychiatrist determines level of care.

What Are Involuntary Treatment Options?

Pennsylvania is one of 46 states and the District of Columbia that provides three types of treatment through its civil commitment laws. The third option listed is currently unavailable in Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts and Tennessee.

  • Emergency Hospitalization for Evaluation. This is a crisis response that admits an individual into a treatment facility for evaluation for a set period of time. This emergency evaluation is often referred to as a “302” and allows for a person to be held up to 120 hours for evaluation and observation. “Psychiatric Hold” is another term often associated with this treatment type.
  • Inpatient Civil Commitment. Sometimes, an individual needs treatment beyond the 120-hour hold. Their commitment can be continued through a “303” hearing before a judge or Mental Health Review Officer (MHRO). A judge or MHRO orders continued in-facility treatment if the person meets the criteria for further treatment. “Involuntary Hospitalization” is a term associated with this treatment type.
  • Outpatient Civil Commitment. This option is for those considered safe to live outside a facility during treatment. The treatment is still court-ordered. A judge orders a person to maintain a mental health treatment plan, which can include medication, partial-day program, substance abuse treatment and more. Outpatient Civil Commitment took effect in Pennsylvania in April 2019. “Mandated Outpatient Treatment” is a term associated with this treatment type.

Who Can Sign a 302 Application?

A law enforcement officer, a doctor or a loved one can sign a 302 form, called an Application for Involuntary Emergency Examination and Treatment, asking the county mental health administrator to issue a warrant for someone considered to be a clear and present danger to themselves or others. Their dangerous behaviors must have occurred within 30 days of the application.

How Long Does a 302 Stay on Your Record?

Generally, a 302 commitment stays on your record for the rest of your life. Your attorney can petition the court to have it removed from your record in some cases. For example, if a court finds the 302 was granted based on insufficient evidence, or in violation of the Mental Health Procedures Act, the court can order the commitment record be expunged from Pennsylvania State Police records.  

Can I Own a Gun with a 302 on My Record?

No. After being held on a 302, you cannot own, possess, use or transfer firearms. This is a lifetime ban under federal and state law. However, there are legal options to potentially restore your ability to own a firearm.

What Happens at a 303 Hearing?

If more treatment is deemed necessary after the 302 emergency commitment, a 303 hearing takes place. A mental health review officer can extend the person’s involuntary commitment an additional 20 days. After that extension, additional commitment time can be approved through a 304b hearing (up to 90 days), followed by a 305 hearing (up to 180 days). An adjudication under 303 and 304 can be appealed, but only within a certain limited time. So, if you wish to appeal an adjudication contact Scaringi Law right away.

How Do I Commit Someone?

Any responsible person, including a loved one, can begin the commitment process and file form 302 with the county mental health administrator.

Some of the dangerous behaviors that might qualify for an emergency commitment include:

  • Attempting to or inflicting self-injury
  • Attempting to or inflicting bodily injury to another
  • Attempting to commit suicide
  • Showing high suicidal risk
  • Any actions that indicate a person is not fit to take care of themselves

Can I Challenge an Involuntary Commitment?

Your rights and freedoms can be impacted if you are committed against your will. Certain rights can continue to be lost after your commitment. You are, however, entitled to have a skilled attorney representing your interests at hearings following your 302 commitment.

Finding a Mental Health Advocate

Our experienced attorneys at Scaringi Law understand the emotional and legal complexity of a mental health commitment. We can help whether you are facing involuntary commitment, or believe you need to act to protect a loved one.

To schedule a consultation, contact us online or via phone at (717) 775-7195.


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