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Evidence sufficient to establish “pattern” and prove dangerousness under § 51.20(1)(a)2.c.

Outagamie County v. Lori D., 2014AP1911, District 3, 1/27/15 (1-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

There was sufficient evidence to commit Lori under § 51.20(1)(a)2.c. because her behavior over one night showed a “pattern of recent acts or omissions” that evidenced impaired judgment and because the lack of services available in the community established a “substantial probability of physical impairment or injury” to Lori if she wasn’t committed.

While Lori’s abnormal behavior happened over only one night (¶¶3-6), “[t]here is nothing in the commitment statute that provides a pattern of acts or omissions must take place over a particular period of time. What is required is a pattern of behavior evidencing impaired judgment.” (¶15). Employing dictionary definitions of “pattern” (which is not defined in § 51.20), the court finds the evidence showed Lori “consistently evidenced delusional thinking that would likely lead to her physical impairment or injury” (¶16) and wasn’t committed “based on a single person’s solitary observation or an isolated incident” (¶17):

¶16     …. Lori had been released from voluntary commitment less than twenty-four hours before; she had unusual and erratic interactions with her co-worker and the police over a period of several hours; Lori made delusional statements to the officers; she expressed her belief her medications could be taken as needed; she was insistent on going to a motel without money; and she was dressed improperly given the below-freezing temperature. In addition, despite the fact that Lori professed a willingness to seek treatment voluntarily, she had no reasonable insight into how that would be accomplished. …

Lori was willing to avail herself of inpatient treatment services in the community, so she argued commitment was improper because § 51.20(1)(a)2.c. provides that “[t]he probability of physical impairment or injury is not substantial … if reasonable provision for the subject individual’s protection is available in the community and there is a reasonable probability that the individual will avail himself or herself of these services, …” The court concludes the first part of this standard wasn’t met:

¶21      No evidence was presented that inpatient treatment was available to Lori in the community. The court-appointed doctors and Lori’s longtime social worker testified, unequivocally, that Lori required commitment. The court relied heavily on the testimony of the professionals, concluding, “[W]hat is clear from the doctor’s testimony is that a period of inpatient monitoring to stabilize the medication regime is necessary, and Ms. Nyman who has long and extensive experience confirms that, that a period of inpatient confinement is necessary.” We agree, relying on the court’s findings of fact, that reasonable services for Lori’s protection were not available in the community. As a result, we need not consider whether Lori would have voluntarily availed herself of community services for her protection.

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