No. 697 April Term, 1977, Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Family Division, Juvenile Section, Entered April 6, 1977, at No. 2799 of 1976.
Loraine Tabakin, Assistant County Solicitor, Pittsburgh, for appellant.
Sarah C. McIntyre, Neighborhood Legal Services, Pittsburgh, for appellee.
Cercone, President Judge, and Wieand and Hoffman, JJ.
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Appellant, County of Allegheny (County), contends, inter alia,*fn1 that the lower court erred in (1) denying the petition for involuntary commitment of Jerry Green; and (2) purporting to commit Jerry pursuant to its authority under the Juvenile Act. We disagree and, accordingly, affirm the order of the court below.
Jerry Green's parents placed him with his maternal grandmother shortly after his birth in 1971. The child was, however, severely mentally ill, and in 1976 his grandmother placed him with Child Welfare Services of Allegheny County (CWS) because she could no longer care for him. CWS filed a petition to have the child declared deprived as defined in section 50-102(4)(i) of the Juvenile Act.*fn2 The lower court approved the petition on January 12, 1977 and granted supervision of the deprived child to CWS. The court also ordered that, pending the filing of an involuntary commitment petition, Jerry was to remain in the psychiatric unit of a private hospital where CWS had placed him on the previous day. Mental Health/Mental Retardation (MH/MR), another county agency, filed a petition for Jerry's involuntary commitment under section 304 of the Mental Health Procedures
[ 273 Pa. Super. Page 401]
Act (MHPA),*fn3 alleging that long-term inpatient treatment of the child was necessary. The lower court dismissed the petition but, pursuant to its prior "deprived" determination, ordered that Jerry remain in the psychiatric unit until there was room for him at a state mental institution. Additionally, the court ordered CWS to pay for the continued interim placement at the hospital with the right to seek reimbursement from the state. The County appealed from this order of the lower court.
A court may order involuntary commitment under the MHPA only upon clear and convincing evidence that the person is severely mentally disabled and in need of treatment. 50 P.S. § 7304(f). Severe mental disability exists where, "as a result of mental illness," the person's "capacity to exercise self-control, judgment and discretion in the conduct of his affairs . . . is so lessened that he poses a clear and present danger of harm to others or to himself." Id. § 7301(a). One manner in which clear and present danger may be established is by showing that within the past 30 days
the person has acted in such a manner as to evidence that he would be unable, without care, supervision and the continued assistance of others, to satisfy his need for nourishment, personal or medical care, shelter or self protection and safety, and that there is a reasonable probability that death, serious bodily injury or serious physical debilitation would ensue within 30 days unless adequate treatment were afforded . . . .
Id. § 7301(b)(2)(i). Finally, the Act provides that "[t]reatment on a voluntary basis shall be preferred to involuntary treatment and in every case, the least restrictions consistent with adequate treatment shall be employed." Id. § 7102.
Conflicting evidence of the extent of Jerry's mental disability was presented to the lower court. Dr. John Hitchcock, the treating psychiatrist at the hospital where Jerry had been placed when he was initially adjudged deprived, ...