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County presented sufficient evidence to prove subject of ch. 51 commitment can be rehabilitated

Dane County v. Thomas F.W., 2014AP2469, District 4, 4/23/15 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

To extend a ch. 51 commitment, the County must prove the subject individual is a proper subject for treatment, which means showing he or she is “capable of rehabilitation,” §§ 51.01(17) and 51.20(1)(a)1. The court of appeals rejects Thomas’s argument that the evidence in this case shows treatment will only blunt the symptoms of his mental illness, not rehabilitate him.

Under Fond du Lac County v. Helen E.F., 2012 WI 50, ¶36, 340 Wis. 2d 500, 814 N.W.2d 179, an individual is capable of rehabilitation and thus a “proper subject for treatment” under ch. 51 if treatment will control or improve the individual’s underlying disorder and its symptoms. The expert testimony at the extension hearing was sufficient to prove Thomas is capable of rehabilitation:

¶20    …. The experts agreed that Thomas is not only diagnosed with a treatable mental illness, but that his presentation of that illness responds positively to treatment. For example, they heard from Thomas’s treating psychiatrist who testified that medication improves Thomas’s thought process and decision-making and that it works to control the specific symptoms of his illness. This testimony was sufficient for the jury to conclude that Thomas is capable of rehabilitation because it indicated that his treatment does more than just control his actions. Instead, the testimony demonstrated that Thomas’s treatment works to improve his condition through control of his specific disorder and its symptoms. Therefore, viewing the expert testimony in the light most favorable to the jury verdict, we conclude that the evidence was sufficient for the jury to find that Thomas is a proper subject for treatment ….

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