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.
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.
ELDER LAW, MENTAL HEALTH ACT, INVOLUNTARY COMMITMENT, SECTION 302