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Juvenile Justice Issues Take Forefront
May 26, 1999

State legislation has been introduced addressing response to school violence in Pennsylvania. HB 1276 amends several sections of the Mental Health Procedures Act of 1976. A student who has threatened to carry out acts of violence, or who has carried out such threats is to be subjected to an involuntary emergency examination and treatment as set forth in Section 302 of the Mental Health Procedures Act. SB 234 amends the Juvenile Act and mandates a psychiatric examination by a psychiatrist or psychologist where a child is alleged to have possessed a weapon on school property. A report of the evaluation is then made available to the court prior to disposition of the case.

The current Juvenile Act does not provide for a standardized assessment at the time children are taken into custody for any alleged delinquent acts. Currently, SB 234 does not provide standardization of a psychological assessment for children, or a time limit for reporting results.

NAMI PA has drafted amendment language to SB 234 that does specify that an emergency evaluation should be performed and reported to the court. It then requires the court to order any recommended treatment. Providers are encouraged to contact senators and representatives, requesting opposition to HB 1276 and support to SB 234 with additional requirements for time limits, reporting, and orders to follow recommendations. Copies of the proposed legislation can be obtained from Kris Ericson at the Association. It is expected that the Senate will take action on the bill during June.

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