Mountain Top, PA asked in Family Law for Pennsylvania

Q: What is the process for ACT 65 of 2020? Are there forms required and available to start the process?

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Peter Christopher Lomtevas
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  • Schenectady, NY
  • Licensed in Pennsylvania

A: This very vague question has no answer.

Pennsylvania children, like all other children of all other states, will from time to time exhibit self-injuring behaviors. Some will exhibit homicidal behaviors. The instinctive reaction of surrounding adults is to say the child needs mental health treatment. However, in America today, no one can force anyone else into such treatment. Statutes are enacted to carve out exceptions to this policy. One statute says that government agents can incarcerate a troubled teen for a brief period in a mental hospital if they exhibit harmful conduct to themselves or others.

Act 65 of 2020 provides another exception. This act provides that a child fourteen years of age or older can voluntarily seek mental health treatment independent of the approval of parents. So, if there is no parent or if the parent has an order of custody that prohibits that parent from making legal decisions for the teen, the teen can self-commit to outpatient mental treatment.

The air-headed idea behind this statute is all teens who are self-aware of their own mental problems now have an open door to receive help. However, how many teens are not self-aware, and of those, which ones want to kill themselves or to kill others? This issue is further swept under the rug after a school shooting when troubled teens are not relevant, but rather gun control is. Talking about guns does nothing about a discussion of troubled youth, and the issue remains unresolved.

As for this asker's vague question, apparently the asker believes there is a form to lock up a misbehaving teen in a mental hospital. While this is a weak attempt at humor, it is not a law that empowers an adult to summarily incarcerate a teen in a mental hospital for misconduct. There is no form, and there is no venue to accomplish this. Parenting has no easy outs, and Pennsylvania government is the dumb watchdog hounding parents.

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