Can we commit our alcoholic dad?

Q: My dad is 59 years old and is a chronic alcoholic to the point he is starting to lose his mind. We think he has brain damage from the alcohol. We don’t know what else to do. He’s now homeless never wants to eat and doesn’t want to go to the doctor. Basically, he wants no help he says he wants to die. We know he is very depressed and he is not mentally right anymore. He raised us alone after my mom passed away. I don’t want him to die like this. So how can we have him involuntarily committed? He is a danger to himself. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: If his behavior meets the standard under Section 302 of the PA Mental Health Act regarding being a danger to himself or others, you can probably commit him. There is a plethora of free public information on the subject. You can try calling an organization called “Resolve” for help. You can also call a hospital, the police, or even legal services for a referral. Generally, they need someone to be the petitioner, which can be you if you are willing. Based on what you are saying, he may not meet the standard under 302, but it may be worth a try. You should also call Greenbriar, Gateway and Pyramid. They are drug and alcohol programs with in-patient and out-patient programs and may offer advice. If he can be persuaded perhaps a 28-day detox and in-patient follow-up can save him. Good luck.

Can I have my elderly parent involuntarily committed?

Q: One of my elderly parents has randomly run away in the middle of the night and may or may not still be in this state. This parent has shown to have signs of paranoid Schizophrenia and has even driven their vehicle recklessly knowing full well that it has not been properly maintained. I feel by having this parent involuntarily committed they can receive the care they deserve, and also apply for Social Security Disability if they are found to have a disability in the process of being examined. My other parent has told me I have no right to have that other person involuntarily committed even though I am that person’s son, and I’m also above 21+. What rights do I have as their son? What can I do to have my elderly parent involuntarily committed so they can receive the help they are trying to avoid. In the end they may stay or go in our relationship, but the end game goal is to help them the best I can instead of letting them put others at risk. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: You can file for a 302 under the Mental Health Act however, your parent would need to be located first. The process is not difficult, but whether a delegate will agree that your parent is a danger to themselves or others and commit them, is another question. I sense that you are younger, and your other parent may have a reason for not wanting to commit this person. I think you should consult with an elder law attorney who handles mental health commitments and guardianships for an opinion. There are more facts needed to be known and it may be worth the consultation before you pull the trigger on this.


Can I get a PFA against my 16-year-old grandson?

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.