ILNews

Court declines to review commitment cases differently

Back to TopE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The Indiana Court of Appeals declined Thursday to change how it reviews cases dealing with involuntary commitment.

In The matter of the commitment of S.T. v. Community Hospital North, In-Patient Psychiatric Unit, No. 49A04-0910-CV-617, 23-year-old S.T., an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran who uses a wheelchair, appealed her temporary involuntary commitment. Although the ordered up-to-90-day commitment has already passed, the appellate court addressed her appeal anyway.

S.T. tried to kill herself by overdosing on Tylenol. S.T suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, a non-specific mood disorder, and attention deficit disorder. She also engaged in behavior associated with pica, an eating disorder in which people eat non-food items.

When staff tried to remove earrings from S.T.’s digestive tract, she ripped out her IVs and the procedure had to be stopped. She also was verbally abusive and threatening to staff members. After this, the trial court ordered the involuntary commitment.

The appellate court spent the majority of the opinion explaining why it would not reconsider the standard in which it reviews involuntary commitments, as S.T. urged.

S.T. argued for a de novo review, but the cases she cited don’t allow for the appellate court to usurp the trial court’s authority to weigh evidence and resolve factual disputes, or for the Court of Appeals to review sufficiency of evidence with no deference to the trial court, wrote Judge Melissa May.

“The determination of dangerousness under the involuntary commitment statute has always been a question of fact for the trial court to decide,” she wrote. “S.T. has not directed us to uncontroverted facts in the record that would change that determination into a question of law that we could review de novo.”

The appellate court also rejected the argument that a new standard should be adopted because the well-established one wasn’t being applied consistently. A review of 67 decisions over the last 25 years showed the opposite, noted the judge.

After explaining the standard in more detail, the appellate court affirmed S.T.’s commitment. Based on testimony from S.T. and the hospital, the court found three facts indicating she was a danger to herself: her behavior toward hospital staff due to her mental illness, her continued attitude of “hopelessness” about obtaining medication through Veterans Affairs, and the possibility of escalated risk of danger to herself as a result of pica.

Combining that with the fact she originally was admitted because of an overdose, she exhibited destructive and angry behavior while there and it was exacerbated by a nonspecific disorder and her PTSD, there was sufficient evidence to support her involuntary commitment for up to 90 days.
 

ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  2. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  3. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  4. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

  5. Can I get this form on line,if not where can I obtain one. I am eligible.

ADVERTISEMENT