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In re M. A. E.

Court of Appeals of Oregon

September 5, 2019

In the Matter of M. A. E., a Person Alleged to have Mental Illness.
v.
M. A. E., Appellant. STATE OF OREGON, Respondent,

          Submitted February 5, 2018

          Marion County Circuit Court 16CC02048; Michael J. Gillespie, Senior Judge.

          Alexander C. Cambier and Multnomah Defenders, Inc., filed the brief for appellant.

          Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, Benjamin Gutman, Solicitor General, and Inge D. Wells, Assistant Attorney General, filed the brief for respondent.

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

         Case Summary: Appellant in this civil commitment case appeals a judgment continuing her commitment to the Oregon Health Authority for an additional period not to exceed 180 days. On appeal, appellant asserts that the trial court erred in determining that she was unable to provide for her basic needs under the current version of ORS 426.005(1)(f)(B), which became effective on January 1, 2016. Held: The current version of ORS 426.005(1)(f)(B) sets out a new standard for a "basic needs" commitment and the evidence in the record is legally sufficient to support the trial court's determination that appellant was unable to provide for her basic needs under that new standard.

         Affirmed.

         [299 Or.App. 232] HADLOCK, P. J.

         Appellant seeks reversal of an order that continues her commitment to the Oregon Health Authority for an additional period not to exceed 180 days. The order is based on a determination by the trial court that appellant is unable to provide for her basic needs under the current version of ORS 426.005(1)(f)(B), which became effective on January 1, 2016, and that she is in need of further treatment. On appeal, appellant contends that the record does not support a determination that she is unable to provide for her basic needs. We disagree. As we explain below, the current version of ORS 426.005(1)(f)(B) sets out a new standard for a "basic needs" commitment. Although this is a close case, the record adequately supports the trial court's determination under that new standard. Accordingly, we affirm.

         The trial court may continue the involuntary commitment of a person if it determines by clear and convincing evidence that "the person is still a person with mental illness and is in need of further treatment." ORS 426.307(6). A "[p]erson with mental illness" is defined as

"a person who, because of a mental disorder, is one or more of the following:
"(A) Dangerous to self or others.
"(B) Unable 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."

ORS 426.005(1)(f).

         The underlying facts are not disputed by the parties. Appellant was civilly committed in April 2016. In February 2017, the state petitioned for appellant's continued commitment on the sole basis that appellant was unable to provide for her basic needs; it did not contend that she was dangerous to herself or to others. The trial court held a hearing in March 2017 and continued appellant's commitment at that time; it is that commitment that is the subject of this appeal. Dr. Zurflieh, who had been appellant's attending psychiatrist at the Oregon State Hospital since her admittance in April 2016, testified at the hearing. Zurflieh explained that [299 Or.App. 233] appellant, who was then 73 years old, has a diagnosis of schizophrenia and that she has persistent fixed delusions, including delusions that she has died and risen multiple times and that ammonia is put in her food and under her nose when she is eating. She also has other elaborate delusions about computers, space travel, the FBI, and Nazis. Zurflieh testified that appellant needs reminders to attend to her basic hygiene and that, without staff encouraging her, she likely would not bathe or change her clothes. Appellant lacks insight into her condition; she does not believe that she has a mental illness and does not believe that she needs or benefits from medications. She has been hospitalized at least 16 times in the Oregon State Hospital system.

         During the hospitalization that is the subject of this appeal, appellant was given an antipsychotic medication, Haldol, which was administered intramuscularly because she refused to take any oral medications. Appellant's behavior improved with medication. She became more social, attended to her basic activities of daily living, ate and drank adequately, and was less likely to be angry and verbally abusive. When appellant was on a lower dose of medication in the fall of 2016, she was more irritable and angry. Zurflieh testified that she believed appellant would not take medication outside the hospital setting because appellant had told her that she would not take medication and that "she would rather stay [in the hospital] until she dies."[1]

         Appellant had not lined up a place to stay if she were to be released. On the morning of the hearing, she told Zurflieh that if she were released she "will walk the streets until [she] die[s]." Later, appellant said to Zurflieh that she could use help in getting housing. Zurflieh described the unsuccessful efforts that the hospital had made to discharge appellant: The hospital arranged for people from various residential facilities to come in and interview appellant, but appellant told them all that she will refuse to take medication. Consequently, because appellant has a ...


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