APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Lee County; the Hon. THOMAS
E. HORNSBY, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE VAN DEUSEN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
In these consolidated cases, each respondent appeals from an order finding her or him in need of involuntary commitment. The respondents also contend that the trial court erred in entering an order which required the Illinois Guardianship and Advocacy Commission to pay for the respondents' transcripts.
Both respondents, Donald Wall and Sherrie Meyer, have been long-term residents of the Dixon Developmental Center. Mr. Wall has been a voluntary patient of the center for more that 40 years. Ms. Meyer has been a voluntary patient for more than 15 years.
Mr. Wall is mildly retarded and suffers from numerous physical and psychological disorders. Sometime prior to 1981, he started exhibiting aggressive behavior against the staff and other clients at the center. Because of this behavioral problem, a determination was made to obtain a status of involuntary admission for Mr. Wall.
Sherrie Meyer is also mildly retarded and suffers from other physical and developmental disabilities. In recent years she has become aggressive and self-injurious. Ms. Meyer presently has no appointed guardian. In light of her aggressive and self-destructive behavior, a petition seeking her involuntary admission to the Department of Mental Health was filed.
On August 5, 1981, hearings were held on the petitions, and both parties were found to be subject to involuntary admission. At both of the hearings, there was sufficient evidence to establish that the respondents were mentally retarded and that they were likely to injure themselves and others. It was also established that the change in status from a voluntary admittee to an involuntary committee would not change or alter the treatment given to the respondents. It would merely curtail the respondents' right to seek discharge under section 4-306(a) of the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 91 1/2, par. 4-306(a)).
Petitions for rehearing were filed and were denied. Timely notices of appeal were filed. At that time, the respondents requested appointment of an attorney on appeal. On October 8, 1981, the trial court entered an order appointing the Illinois Guardianship and Advocacy Commission to represent the respondents. The court also entered an order requiring the Illinois Guardianship and Advocacy Commission to be responsible for the cost of the transcripts on appeal.
Neither respondent challenges the evidence presented at the trials. There is no contention that the respondents are not mentally retarded, nor is there a contention that the respondents are not dangerous to themselves or others. Rather, it is urged that absent a patient's request to leave the hospital, the change of status from voluntary to involuntary patient through involuntary commitment proceedings is not authorized by statute and violates the patient's right to due process of law.
Section 4-306(a) of the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 91 1/2, par. 4-306(a)), dealing with procedures for the commitment of a voluntary patient, provides as follows:
"A client 18 years of age or over, who is not under guardianship, shall be allowed to be discharged from the facility at the earliest appropriate time, not to exceed 5 days, excluding Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, after he submits a written objection to the facility director, * * * unless within the 5 day period a petition and certificate conforming to the requirements of Section 4-501 are filed with the court. Upon receipt of the petition, the court shall order a hearing to be held within 5 days, excluding Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, and to be conducted pursuant to Article VI of this Chapter. Admission of a client may continue pending further order of the court."
The respondents argue that prior to the filing of the written objection, this language guarantees their right to seek a discharge and insulates them from a petition seeking involuntary commitment. The respondents cite two cases in support of their position: In re Clement (1975), 34 Ill. App.3d 574, and People v. Hill (1979), 72 Ill. App.3d 638.
In both cases, the court held that a patient who voluntarily commits himself is afforded certain rights by statute. One of those is the "unqualified right to request to leave a Department facility at any time." (People v. Hill (1979), 72 Ill. App.3d 638, 640-41; In re Clement (1975), 34 Ill. App.3d 574, 577.) In both cases, the court held that section 5-3 of the Mental Health Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 91 1/2, par. 5-3) mandated that the respondents cannot be subject to involuntary commitment proceedings until the respondent gave statutory notice of his or her desire to leave the facility. People v. Hill (1979), 72 Ill. App.3d 638, 641.
The facts in Clement are similar to the facts in the instant cases. In Clement the respondent was voluntarily admitted on January 21, 1975. Thereafter, his condition deteriorated. He had to be placed in restraints almost daily, and he physically assaulted other patients and staff. In April of 1975, a clinical review committee met to consider Clement's case. The committee noted that respondent was a voluntary patient, and although it was unlikely he would request to sign a five-day notice, it was possible. Therefore, there was a decision to file a petition for involuntary commitment. Prior to a hearing on the petition, respondent's counsel filed a motion to dismiss the petition on the basis that respondent was a voluntary patient. The court denied the motion, finding that there was no reason to dismiss an involuntary commitment petition merely because a person was presently in a hospital on a voluntary basis. After the hearing the trial court found the respondent to be in need of mental treatment and ordered that he be hospitalized by the Department of Mental Health in the Chester Mental Health Center.
In reversing this order of the trial court, the appellate court recognized that even though the evidence overwhelmingly indicated that respondent's condition deteriorated severely after he entered the hospital as a voluntary patient, his status as a voluntary patient could not be changed without compliance with the statute. The court determined that section 5-3 of the Mental Health Code was the only provision of the Code which specifies the procedure for the commitment of a voluntary patient. The court stated that the language of that section is "clear, unambiguous, and ...