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Evidence supported extension of involuntary commitment

Waukesha County v. J.W.J., 2016AP46-FT, 5/4/16 (1-judge opinion, ineligible for publication),petition for review granted 9/13/16, affirmed, 2017 WI 57; case activity

To commit a person involuntarily, the county must show that the person is mentally ill and dangerous. To extend the commitment, the county may prove “dangerousness” by showing that “there is a substantial likelihood, based on the subject individual’s treatment record, he would be a proper subject for commitment if treatment were withdrawn.” §51.20(1)(am).

A person is a “proper subject for treatment,” if treatment will not just control activity, but also control the person’s disorder and symptoms. Fond du Lac County v. Helen E.F., 2012 WI 50, ¶36, 340 Wis. 2d 500, 814 N.W.2d 179.  Based on this standard, the court of appeals found the evidence sufficient to extend the commitment of J.W.J., who suffers from schizophrenic illness paranoid type.

According to [the testifying expert Dr.] Koch, “[w]hen [J.W.J. is] not appropriately medicated, he becomes increasingly more agitated, paranoid, grandiose at times, and he started having hallucinations, demand hallucinations to either harm himself or others. When he’s taking medications, while some of those experiences and symptoms may still be present, he doesn’t act on them.” Koch’s opinion was that J.W.J. is dangerous as defined under the recommitment standard and that J.W.J.’s illness is treatable “to the extent that when treated with medications that his behavior is improved and he can survive in the community.” In other words, as the court concluded in C.J., “we have evidence that [J.W.J.] will benefit from treatment that will go beyond controlling his activity—it will go to controlling his disorder and its symptoms.” Slip op. ¶4.


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