COA affirms involuntary commitment

A Marion County man must remain in involuntary mental health commitment after the Indiana Court of Appeals upheld findings that he is gravely disabled and a danger to others.

In May 2017, J.B., who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, was committed to Community Hospital North after refusing to leave his brother’s house and snorting anti-psychotic medicine through a straw. After his commitment, J.B. told doctors he was suffering from paranoia and delusional thinking.

J.B. was involved in multiple physical and verbal altercations at the hospital within a week of his commitment, so Community North filed a petition for involuntary commitment. The petition included a statement from Dr. Kanwaldeep Sidhu, who had observed J.B. exhibiting paranoid behavior, hearing voices and talking to “internal stimuli,” as well as behaving aggressively.

The Marion Superior Court granted the commitment petition after determining J.B. was gravely disabled and a danger to others. J.B. then appealed in the case of In the Matter of the Civil Commitment of J.B. v. Community Hospital North, 49A02-1706-MH-1295, but the Indiana Court of Appeals upheld his involuntary commitment on Tuesday.

Judge Patricia Riley, writing for the unanimous appellate panel, said Tuesday there was sufficient evidence to support the finding that J.B. was a danger to others, considering Sidhu’s observations of his aggressive and paranoid behavior. Sidhu also testified J.B. would need several months of treatment before his medication would result in the desired change in his behavior. Similarly, J.B.’s mother also testified to her son’s aggressive behavior, which was exacerbated when he failed to take his medication, Riley said.

The appellate panel also found sufficient evidence to support the finding that J.B. was gravely disabled, specifically evidence that he was homeless prior to being hospitalized and was no longer welcome to stay with his mother or brother. Additionally, Sidhu testified J.B. is unemployed and has only an eighth-grade education, and also struggles to find employment due to his criminal record.

“Moreover, both Dr. Sidhu and J.B.’s mother cited concerns about J.B.’s historical non-compliance with taking his medication,” Riley wrote. “Although J.B. appeared to be taking his medication while in the hospital, lab results indicating lower-than-expected levels of the drugs gave rise to a concern that J.B. was not taking everything as directed.”

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