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In re S. T.

Court of Appeals of Oregon

November 7, 2018

In the Matter of S. T., a Person Alleged to have Mental Illness.
v.
S. T., Appellant. STATE OF OREGON, Respondent,

          Submitted September 6, 2018

          Marion County Circuit Court 6635 Cynthia D. Carlson, Senior Judge.

          Joseph DeBin and Multnomah Defenders, Inc., fled the brief for appellant.

          Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, Benjamin Gutman, Solicitor General, and Christopher A. Perdue, Assistant Attorney General, fled the brief for respondent.

          Before Hadlock, Presiding Judge, and DeHoog, Judge, and Aoyagi, Judge.

         Case Summary:

Appellant seeks reversal of an order that continues his commitment to the Oregon Health Authority for an additional period not to exceed 180 days. The order is based on the trial court's determination that appellant's mental disorder has left him unable to provide for his basic needs outside a hospital setting. Appellant argues on appeal that the record does not support that determination.
Held: No evidence in the record establishes how appellant's inability to make plans for obtaining housing or healthy food will, "in the near future," lead to appellant suffering "serious physical harm," as required under ORS 426.005(1)(f)(B).

         [294 Or.App. 684] HADLOCK, P. J.

         Appellant seeks reversal of an order that continues his commitment to the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) for an additional period not to exceed 180 days. The order is based solely on a determination that appellant's mental disorder has left him unable to provide for his basic needs outside a hospital setting; the court found that the state did not prove that appellant is dangerous to himself or others. On appeal, appellant contends that the record does not support a determination that his mental disorder leaves him unable to provide for his basic needs. We agree and, accordingly, reverse.[1]

         A person who has been committed may have the commitment continued involuntarily if a court determines, by clear and convincing evidence, that he or she "[i]s still a person with mental illness and is in need of further treatment." ORS 426.307(6); ORS 426.301. ORS 426.005(1)(f) describes three circumstances in which an individual may be deemed a "[p]erson with mental illness" for purposes of the commitment statutes. Only one of those circumstances is pertinent here: Under ORS 426.005(1)(f)(B), a person has a mental illness if, because of a mental disorder, the person is "[u]nable to provide for basic personal needs that are necessary to avoid serious physical harm in the near future, and is not receiving such care as is necessary to avoid such harm."

         Dr. Shad, a physician at the Oregon State Hospital, testified that appellant suffers from a form of dementia that causes delusions, behavioral changes, and personality changes. Appellant started experiencing personality changes in about 2013 and was originally hospitalized in Coos County in September 2016. Appellant was moved to the state hospital in January 2017 and Shad began treating him about two months later; Shad remained appellant's physician through the time of the commitment hearing in August of that year.

         Shad described this case as "very unfortunate," explaining that the type of dementia from which appellant [294 Or.App. 685] suffers causes personality changes that are "very difficult especially for relatives and the loved ones to deal with." No medications have been approved to treat the illness. Accordingly, Shad researched case studies and "very cautiously started [appellant] on the medication which has the best evidence for this kind of disorder." Appellant's "danger problems" have "significantly reduce [d]" since he began that medication regimen, which includes antidepressants and sleep aids. However, Shad believes that appellant will stop taking his medications immediately if he is released from the hospital because he has no "insight, whatsoever, into his illness." A disruption of medication would have negative consequences. First, Shad described the disruption as "toxic to the brain." Second, if appellant stops taking the medications, he will relapse in a matter of days and "will lose control over the behavior that [the hospital has] been managing very nicely here."

         Shad has been working hard to find "a lower level of care" for appellant because state hospital personnel have done as much as they can for him. He wanted to be able to discharge appellant "to a place where he can be managed," noting that appellant "can survive *** provided that his treatment continues." Because no new placement has yet ...


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