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12/19/96 MATTER DENISE BONTRAGER (PEOPLE STATE

December 19, 1996

IN THE MATTER OF DENISE BONTRAGER (PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS), PETITIONER-APPELLEE,
v.
DENISE BONTRAGER, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 10th Judicial Circuit, Peoria County, Illinois. No. 96-MH-125. Honorable E. Michael O'Brien, Judge, Presiding.

The Publication Status of this Document has been Changed by the Court from Unpublished to Published February 4, 1997. Released for Publication February 21, 1997. As Corrected March 19, 1997.

Honorable William E. Holdridge, Presiding Justice, Honorable Michael P. Mccuskey, Justice, Honorable Kent Slater, Justice. Holdridge, P.j., with McCUSKEY and Slater, J.j., concurring.

JUSTICE HOLDRIDGE delivered the opinion of the court:

Respondent, Denise Bontrager, appeals from orders of the circuit court of Peoria County, which found her subject to involuntary admission into Zeller Mental Health Center (Zeller) for 60 days, and subject to involuntary administration of psychotropic drugs for a period not to exceed 90 days. For the following reasons, we reverse.

FACTS

The limited record in this case reveals that respondent obtained a college degree, and at one point, was employed and living with her husband in Ohio. Since approximately 1991, respondent has been employed, on and off, has moved often, and her marital status is uncertain.

Respondent spent the last week of April 1996 living with her sister in Spring Valley, Illinois. That living arrangement ended sometime after a spanking incident involving respondent's nine year old niece, for which the police were called.

On May 2, 1996, a petition for respondent's involuntary admission was filed pursuant to section 1-119 of the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code (the Code). 405 ILCS 5/1-119 (West 1992). The petition asserted respondent was mentally ill and unable to provide for her basic physical needs so as to guard herself from serious harm. This assertion was based on respondent's reports of hearing voices, referring to herself in the third person, failing to eat for three months because she believed unnamed persons removed her internal organs and blood, fearing herself because she told the truth, and spitting frequently because she would not swallow her saliva.

A certificate by licensed clinical social worker and qualified examiner, David Schwarz (Schwarz), accompanied the petition. Schwarz certified that respondent's irrational fears and loss of touch with reality proved she could not be depended on to care for herself.

On May 3, 1996, respondent was hospitalized at Zeller on an emergency basis with petition and certificate. Also that day, a petition for administration of psychotropic drugs was filed pursuant to section 2-107.1(d) of the Code. 405 ILCS 5/2-107.1(d)(West 1992). A certificate by respondent's treating psychiatrist at Zeller, Dr. Jayalakshmi Attaluri, accompanied the petition and certified, inter alia, that respondent was mentally ill, evidenced by her deteriorating behavior, repeated episodic occurrences, and preoccupation with her problems.

At a May 8, 1996, hearing on both petitions, Dr. Attaluri testified to the allegations set forth in the petition and the certificate, and opined that respondent's condition had existed prior to her admission to Zeller. She recommended that respondent be committed to Zeller for 60 days, and that a neuroleptic psychotropic drug such as Prolixin or Haldol be administered. Dr. Attaluri believed that respondent lacked the capacity to reasonably decide to take medication, and that the use of such psychotropic drugs would benefit respondent, with any possible harm or side effects being outweighed by the benefits.

Respondent testified and denied any psychiatric problems. She only demanded medical treatment for her missing organs, and requested legal assistance. She asked to be released to the Guardianship and Advocacy Commission, and also asked to be discharged, stating that she could return home, which could be Peoria, but which had been Spring Valley. She also voiced an interest in contacting Catholic Social Services and living in one of their facilities.

Respondent stated that until approximately ten days prior to the hearing, she had lived independently, and paid her expenses. She maintained that she was last employed in late 1994 early 1995, however, she stated that she had received unemployment compensation on and off since 1991. She denied that she would harm herself or anyone, and if allowed to be released, she could care for herself, needing only transportation.

The court found clear and convincing evidence of respondent's mental illness, her refusal of medication, and her deteriorating condition. The court determined respondent lacked the capacity to make a reasoned decision about medication, and that the benefits of psychotropic drugs would outweigh any harm, which could be guarded against. Finding other less restrictive services inappropriate, the court ordered respondent involuntarily committed for 60 days, ...


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