Q: I live with my daughter and her 3 boys, ages 16, 14, and 11. My 16-year old grandson has severe mental health issues. He was diagnosed with mental health issues 10 years ago. Jump to the present. Early this past spring he tried to kill himself with his psychiatric medications. He hasn’t been the same person since the overdose. Since then he has been verbally abusing everyone in the household. In September, he threatened to kill me and his mom. Two weeks ago, he was verbally abusive and punched his mom, held his 11-year old brother hostage in her bedroom and then proceeded to cause $1,000.00 damage in our living room. Presently he is in a Children’s Hospital. The hospital is recommending a Residential Treatment Facility, but he has declined to go there, because of Act 147. Because of this act, he thinks that he rules his own mental health. He wants to go to a DOS program for 30 days and then come home, so that he may terrorize his family more. We are very scared and do not want him at home for fear what he may do. A week before he was admitted to the psych hospital he threatened to torch his bedroom. We are not safe. Please help me. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: I am not understanding why he has not been involuntarily committed, either initiated by you, the hospital or police, if police were ever involved. It appears he is a danger to himself and others. Have you tried this? He needs a doctor’s prescription for an involuntary commitment at his age. Yes, you can obtain a Protection from Abuse (PFA) Order. I would call the police to initiate it. I would make sure you have the police aware of his condition and on your side before you obtain the PFA. A PFA order is only a piece of paper. Your real protection depends on how quickly the police arrive if your grandson decides to violate it. The power of the PFA is that once he violates it, when you call the police, they take him straight to jail, as he is in contempt of the order. You could also try to get help through CYF. If you cannot have him live in your home, he is therefore without proper parental control and supervision. CYF can file a Petition for Dependency, and ask the court to find him a dependent child. At that point, the court decides where he will be placed if home is not an option. Prior to filing the Dependency Petition, CYF can file for a Shelter Order and take temporary custody of him. If you do this, you need to understand that CYF has legal and physical custody of him, until such time that he is deemed able to return home or to a less structured environment.