Panel split over whether man needed to be involuntarily committed

January 7, 2015

A panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals Wednesday was divided over whether sufficient evidence was presented to justify that a mentally ill man was a danger to himself or others and thus needed to be involuntarily committed.

B.M. was taken to Indiana University Health after he called 911 from a library claiming people were obtaining his personal information through a social network. The hospital staff determined B.M. was psychotic and paranoid, and a potential threat to the safety of others, and applied for emergency detention. He was admitted and examined by Dr. A.P. Griffith and Jennifer Kaladow, Ph.D., who filed petitions for involuntary commitment. They believed B.M. was suffering from bipolar mania disease and noted he has been threatening to staff and refused treatment.

At the hearing on the hospital’s petition, Griffith testified that B.M. is a “threat to others if he does not get his way.” He also noted B.M. had to be in restraints and fought staff on several occasions. B.M. was ordered committed to the hospital by the trial court April 8 for up to 90 days because of his mental illness and danger to others.

Although B.M. has since been released, the COA decided the case because the question of how people subject to involuntary commitment are treated by the trial courts is of great importance to society, Judge Paul Mathias wrote in a footnote in In the Matter of the Mental Health Proceedings of B.M. v. Indiana University Health Hospital, 53A04-1405-MH-210.

Mathias and Judge Terry Crone believed sufficient evidence was presented to show B.M. should have been committed. Four medical professionals examined B.M. and found he suffers from a mental illness that causes him to be delusional, hostile and threatening. He had to be restrained, does not believe he is mentally ill, and refused to take his medication. Mathias pointed out that Griffith believed B.M. is dangerous and as a result of his psychiatric disorder, presents a substantial risk that he will harm others.

But Judge Patricia Riley didn’t believe the evidence supported that B.M. was a danger to others. The justification to order an involuntary commitment turns on the connection between the individual’s proclivity for dangerousness and his or her mental illness, she wrote, and that nexus is absent here.

Griffith never testified that B.M.’s aggressive behavior was connected to B.M.’s delusions, and the doctor also agreed B.M. has not been a threat to the general public. Due to no clear and convincing evidence that B.M.’s aggression is derived from his delusions, he is not dangerous within the perimeters of the involuntary commitment statute and should not have been committed, Riley wrote.



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