Murt Bill to Reform Standards for Receiving Mental Health Treatment Passes Committee
HARRISBURG—Legislation introduced by Rep. Thomas Murt (R-Montgomery) to change the standards used to help families intervene when someone with a mental illness is too sick to seek treatment has passed the Human Services Committee.

“My office has received requests from distraught constituents who are seeking help for someone with a serious mental illness who is too sick to seek treatment voluntarily,” Murt said. “Under existing law we must wait until the individual becomes a danger to themselves or others before we can help.”

Murt called that “clear-and-present-danger” standard among the most restrictive in the country.

“As a practical matter, any individual who poses a clear and present danger is too sick to be treated on an outpatient basis,” Murt said. “Consequently, outpatient commitment is rarely used in Pennsylvania.”

House Bill 1233 would create a new, strictly non-punitive process and a continuum of services for seriously mentally ill individuals who are unwilling or unable to voluntarily to seek treatment.

“Keeping the ‘clear and present danger’ standard means losing the ability to use a less restrictive outpatient treatment setting, and the chance to intervene sooner,” Murt said. “Someone who is clearly and presently dangerous belongs in the hospital, not in outpatient treatment. We need a standard that allows timely intervention before someone becomes dangerous and tragedy strikes.”

Murt’s legislation would establish a new standard for court-ordered assisted outpatient treatment in the community, while leaving in place the clear-and-present-danger standard for involuntary hospitalization.

The new standard would be based on a medical determination of whether a seriously mentally ill individual needs and can benefit from assisted outpatient treatment to survive safely in the community. The standard would also take into consideration an individual’s history of involuntary inpatient commitments and acts of violence to self or others.

The need for assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) would be shown by establishing evidence that the person would benefit from AOT as manifested by evidence of behavior that indicates all of the following:

• The person is unlikely to survive safely in the community without supervision, based on a clinical determination.
• The person has a history of lack of voluntary adherence to treatment for mental illness.
• The person, as a result of the person's mental illness, is unlikely to voluntarily participate in necessary treatment.
• Based on the person's treatment history and current behavior, the person is in need of treatment in order to prevent a relapse or deterioration that would be likely to result in substantial risk of serious harm to the others or himself.

A person who meets only the AOT criteria as outlined above would not be subject to involuntary inpatient hospitalization.

“Assisted outpatient treatment can help individuals avoid inpatient commitment, as well as provide critical step-down services in the community for those who are being discharged from inpatient facilities,” Murt said.

The bill now moves to the whole House for a vote.

Representative Thomas P. Murt
152nd District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: David Foster
267.207.0207 /

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