Fifth Judicial District of Pennsylvania
County of Allegheny
Juvenile | Special Hearings

Act 53
In 1997 Pennsylvania legislators realized a “gap” in our Court system regarding the drug and alcohol treatment for addicted teenagers who have not been declared either delinquent or dependent through Juvenile Court. ACT 53 addresses the issue of involuntary commitment of minors into drug and alcohol treatment. To initiate the process a parent must file the motion for Juvenile Court intervention. At the initial ACT 53 motion hearing, the child is ordered to have a drug and alcohol assessment prior to the ACT 53 hearing, which is heard in approximately three weeks. At the hearing the Judge renders a decision for treatment based on the evidence presented to the Court. The Court will then monitor the child’s progress and schedule a review hearing forty-five days after the hearing.

The ACT 53 procedure is a collaboration between Allegheny County Juvenile Court and the Allegheny County Department of Human Services, Drug and Alcohol Services Unit. The parent/legal guardian of the teenager must be a resident of Allegheny County and the child must be between the ages of 12 and 18. An Adolescent Care Manager will screen the case for its appropriateness and then guide the party through the ACT 53 process. The law states that the Court accepts no financial liability or custody of the child and that the parent/legal guardian is financially responsible for finding funding for the child’s treatment, whether public or private.

The success of the program is evident in three unique areas. First, teenagers who are unable or unwilling to ask for help are offered treatment. Second, the majority of teens who are headed for “the system” are helped before they reach that point. Thirdly, Allegheny County has implemented one of the only successful ACT 53 processes in the State of Pennsylvania.

For more information regarding the ACT 53 law, policies, or procedures contact the Allegheny County Drug and Alcohol Services Unit at 412-350-3328 or 412-350-2756.

 

Mental Health Hearings
If a child or adolescent is determined to be both severely mentally disabled and presents danger to himself or others, he/she may be subject to involuntary emergency treatment under the Mental Health Procedures Act.

If a child has been hospitalized and is in need of extended involuntary emergency treatment AND is currently under the supervision of a Juvenile Court judge, a petition under Sec. 303 of the Mental Health Procedures Act will be filed in Juvenile Court. Under the Judges' direction, this petition allows for a mental health commitment for up to 20 days.

A petition filed under Sec. 304 of the Mental Health Procedures Act allows for a mental health commitment for up to 90 days. Because the possible length of commitment is 90 days, all 304 petitions are filed in Juvenile Court. Similarly, petitions filed under Sec. 305 which allow for a commitment of up to 180 days are also held in Juvenile Court.

To facilitate these juvenile court hearings, a mental health professional from the County Office of Behavioral Health is available to coordinate the commitment hearings, communicate with consumers and family members, as well as hospital staff.