Appeals court affirms mental health commitment order

A man who was found walking barefoot two miles from his home with glass in his feet was not wrongly ordered committed, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Monday.

M.K. is 30 and has been diagnosed with unspecified schizophrenia spectrum disorder. His case at the Court of Appeals began after his father took him to the Richard L. Roudebush Veterans Affairs Medical Center due to concerns about his mental health and well-being. M.K.’s father had gone to his apartment to check on him after his mother said he had called acting confused.

When M.K.’s father arrived, M.K. wasn’t home but “he observed that the apartment was in terrible disarray and that there was blood on the carpet and a hole punched in the entertainment center.” The father went looking and eventually found M.K. walking barefoot. “… M.K. did not seem to recognize his father at first, and he was acting bizarrely and giving peculiar answers to questions. When asked about the bleeding wound on his foot, M.K. told his father that he would just drink some alcohol to sterilize the wound,” Judge Terry Crone wrote.

At the VA hospital, M.K.’s wounds were treated but he was noncompliant and “exhibited signs of paranoia and delusional ideation as he continually walked around barefoot with his foot still bleeding,” Crone wrote. He was admitted to the psychiatric unit, after which the hospital filed a report seeking involuntary commitment, which was granted by the Marion Superior Court and affirmed on appeal in In the Matter of the Commitment of M.K. v. Department of Veterans Affairs, Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center, 20A-MH-1054.

Among other things, the panel found M.K.’s father supported the commitment because he was worried that his son’s irrational behavior had worsened. The father said he feared his son might hurt himself or someone else.

“Based upon the foregoing, a reasonable trier of fact could find that the necessary elements of grave disability have been proven by clear and convincing evidence. Contrary to M.K.’s assertion on appeal, this case does not simply boil down to an overblown ‘concern about the small piece of glass’ in his foot,” Crone wrote.

“Rather, the evidence demonstrates clearly and convincingly that M.K., as a result of his mental illness, is in danger of coming to harm because he has undergone a substantial impairment or obvious deterioration of his judgment, reasoning, and behavior that has left him unable to function independently. Therefore, we affirm M.K.’s temporary involuntary commitment.”

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