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Evidence showed ch. 51 respondent was “a proper subject for treatment”

Winnebago County v. J.C.S., 2021AP354, District 2, 8/4/21 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

The evidence presented at J.C.S.’s final commitment hearing was “just enough” to prove J.C.S. was a proper subject of treatment, one of the elements necessary to justify a ch. 51 commitment order, § 51.20(1)(a)1.

For purposes of ch. 51, “treatment” means the various techniques “designed to bring about rehabilitation” of a person. Waukesha County v. J.W.J., 2017 WI 57, ¶21, 375 Wis. 2d 542, 895 N.W.2d 783 (citing § 51.01(17)). Treatment must go beyond “controlling activity,” and must also “go to controlling the disorder and its symptoms,” for “then the subject individual has rehabilitative potential, and is a proper subject for treatment.” Id., ¶¶23, 36 (emphasis added) (citing Fond du Lac County v. Helen E.F., 2012 WI 50, ¶36, 340 Wis. 2d 500, 814 N.W.2d 179). “[R]ehabilitation is not synonymous with cure,” but refers to improving the condition of the patient by lessening the significance of symptoms and behaviors of concern. J.W.J., 375 Wis. 2d 542, ¶¶32, 36, 38. “The key is that the rehabilitative treatment addresses itself to the symptom, not … activities.” Id., ¶34 n.15.

The testimony of the examiner (Baldomero) in this case was sufficient to prove this standard:

¶7     …. While the County could have (and should have) done more to flesh out additional details from Baldomero related to the element of “proper subject of treatment,” just enough was done here. The question to us is whether the treatment, in this case the medication, “go[es] to”/“addresses itself to” controlling or improving J.C.S.’s disorder, its symptoms, and related behaviors, thus indicating that J.C.S. has “rehabilitative potential.” See J.W.J., 375 Wis. 2d 542, ¶¶23, 34 n.15, 36. Here, Baldomero identified that disorder as “thought disorder” and “schizophrenia.” “[S]ubstantial affectation of thought, mood and perception,” “gross[] impair[ment of] judgment or behavior,” and “capacity to recognize reality” are all symptoms of her disorder, whereas her refusal to eat and her display of physical aggression towards staff members are behaviors stemming from her disorder and symptoms. Baldomero’s uncontradicted testimony was that in the five weeks since J.C.S. started having the medication administered to her, her symptoms and behaviors had improved as she was willing to converse with staff, was eating better, and was “less of a threat.” This was sufficient to support the determination that she has rehabilitative potential and is a proper subject for treatment.

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