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Ch. 51 mental health commitment — sufficiency of evidence to extend commitment and order involuntary medication

Outagamie County v. Aaron V., 2013AP808, District 3, 9/10/13; court of appeals decision (1-judge; ineligible for publication); case activity

The evidence supported an extension of Aaron’s ch. 51 commitment even though Dr. Dave, the county’s expert, did not specifically testify Aaron would “decompensate” or become dangerous if treatment were withdrawn and did not provide reasons for his opinion that Aaron would be a proper subject for commitment if treatment were withdrawn:

¶15      …. Here, Dave rendered an uncontroverted expert medical opinion that Aaron would be a proper subject for commitment if treatment were withdrawn.  The circuit court was permitted to rely on Dave’s opinion when determining whether Aaron’s commitment should be extended.

¶16      Although Aaron objects to Dave’s reasons in support of her opinion, his argument is more properly framed as an assertion that the opinion lacked a proper foundation. However, as the County asserts, Aaron did not object to the opinion, or purported lack of foundation, at the extension hearing. Consequently, Aaron has not preserved this issue for appeal. See State v. Corey J.G., 215 Wis. 2d 395, 405, 572 N.W.2d 845 (1998). Nevertheless, we observe that, in addition to her opinion, Dave testified that Aaron has been noncompliant with his medication, “does better when he’s on medication,” and does not believe he has a mental illness. In the report filed with the court, Dave wrote Aaron told her he “gets threatening or aggressive if somebody pushes his buttons” and Dave explained that “per history, [Aaron] is substantially dangerous to others when noncompliant with recommended treatment.” The record supports the circuit court’s determination to extend Aaron’s mental health commitment.

The county also met its burden of proving Aaron is not competent to refuse medication. Dave’s testimony that she discussed with Aaron the advantages, disadvantages, and alternatives to medication was uncontroverted, and she also opined he could not apply an understanding of that information to his mental illness because of his lack of insight and his denial of his illness, an opinion that complies with the standard articulated in Outagamie Cnty. v. Melanie L., 2013 WI 67, ¶¶71-72, 833 N.W.2d 607, and which the circuit court  was free to accept or reject. (¶¶18-22).

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