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Ch. 51 Recommitment – “if treatment were withdrawn” test explained and met here

Waukesha County v. Kathleen R. H., 2010AP2571-FT, District 2, 2/23/11

court of appeals decision (1-judge, not for publication); for Kathleen R.H.: Paul G. LaZotte, SPD, Madison Appellate; case activity

The evidence supported ch. 51 mental health recommitment for a period of 12 months.

¶8        Here, Kathleen misconstrues WIS. STAT. § 51.20(1)(am) as requiring proof, apart from that contained in her treatment record, that she would be a danger to herself or others if treatment were withdrawn.  See WIS. STAT. § 51.20(1)(a)2.  However, § 51.20(1)(am) requires only that there be a substantial likelihood of recommitment if the current treatment were withdrawn.  Indeed, in State v. W.R.B., 140 Wis. 2d 347, 351, 411 N.W.2d 142 (Ct. App. 1987), this court explained that § 51.20(1)(am) was enacted to “avoid the ‘revolving door’ phenomena whereby there must be proof of a recent overt act to extend the commitment but because the patient was still under treatment, no overt acts occurred and the patient was released from treatment only to commit a dangerous act and be recommitted.”

¶9        In reaching its determination that the County had met its burden of proof, the circuit court referenced the testimony of Kathleen’s case manager and examining psychologist that (1) Kathleen has a schizoaffective disorder that is a substantial disorder of thought, mood and perception that grossly impairs her ability to deal with the ordinary affairs of life and (2) that she would “meet the dangerous standard under the recommitment standard.  That is, that if treatment were withdrawn, [she] would be a proper subject for treatment.”  The court noted Bruett’s testimony that Kathleen is incapable of expressing an understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of accepting treatment with the use of psychotropic medications and that she would not take the medications if she were not subject to a commitment order.  This testimony meets the requirements of WIS. STAT. § 51.20(1)(am), namely that if treatment were withdrawn, Kathleen would likely stop taking her medication and as a result would once again be a proper subject for recommitment.

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