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In Re Lance H., A Person Found Subject To v. Lance H

August 8, 2012


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Involuntary Commitment Randolph County. No. 11-MH-53 Honorable Richard A. Brown, Judge, presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justices: Honorable Bruce D. Stewart, J.

NOTICE Decision filed 08/08/12.

The text of this decision may be changed or corrected prior to the filing of a Petition for Rehearing or the disposition of the same.

JUSTICE STEWART delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Spomer and Wexstten concurred in the judgment and opinion.


¶ 1 On April 28, 2011, the State filed a petition alleging that the respondent, Lance H., a patient at Chester Mental Health Center (Chester), continued to be subject to involuntary admission to a mental health facility pursuant to section 3-813 of the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code (the Mental Health Code) (405 ILCS 5/3-813 (West 2010)). On May 4, 2011, the circuit court conducted an evidentiary hearing on the State's petition. During that hearing, the respondent testified that he wanted to become a voluntary patient. Without acknowledging the respondent's request to become a voluntary patient, the court granted the State's petition for continued involuntary commitment. The respondent appeals from the court's May 4, 2011, order. We reverse.


¶ 3 In the current petition, the State sought an order for the respondent's continued involuntary commitment. Information in that petition as well as in previous opinions of this court*fn1 indicates that, in 1979, the respondent was incarcerated in the Illinois Department of Corrections. The respondent was incarcerated almost continuously between 1979 and his mandatory parole date of March 27, 1997. Since 1997, he has been admitted numerous times to various mental health facilities, including Chester, as well as incarcerated for criminal offenses and parole violations. In this petition, the State alleged that the respondent was "a person with a mental illness" and asserted two grounds for continued involuntary commitment: (1) he was reasonably expected, unless treated on an inpatient basis, to engage in conduct placing himself or another in physical harm or in reasonable expectation of physical harm; and (2) he was unable to provide for his basic physical needs so as to guard himself from serious harm without the assistance of family or others, unless treated on an inpatient basis.

¶ 4 The State based its request for continued involuntary commitment on a statement from the petitioner, David Dunker, whose address is listed as a post office box in Chester, Illinois, but who is otherwise not identified in the record. Mr. Dunker stated that he based his assertion of the need for continued involuntary commitment on the following:

"Mr. Lance H[.] was admitted to Chester on 2-29-08 as an Involuntary admission from Dixon Correctional Center as he was found subject to Involuntary admission upon reaching his projected parole date. He is chronically mentally ill and remains paranoid and aggressive although he does follow his medication regimen. He lacks insight into his mental illness and remains very argumentative. Outside a controlled environment he would quickly decompensate thus becoming a danger to self or others."

The petition also set forth the name of Kim Arrington of Elgin, Illinois, as a "spouse, parent, guardian, or substitute decision maker."

¶ 5 Attached to the petition is an "Inpatient Certificate," signed by T. Casey, M.D., a staff psychiatrist, and dated April 19, 2011. Dr. Casey certified that the respondent was subject to involuntary admission and in need of immediate hospitalization. Also attached to the petition is an inpatient certificate signed by Dr. Kathryn Holt, "LCPC Psychologist 3," stating that she personally examined the respondent and found him subject to involuntary inpatient admission and in need of immediate hospitalization. The State's petition also included copies of the respondent's 30-day treatment plan, dated March 15, 2011. Of note in the treatment plan is the statement that the respondent maintained family contact on a regular basis. The name of the family member is not listed. None of these attachments were referenced in testimony or admitted into evidence during the hearing.

¶ 6 At the evidentiary hearing, the State called Travis Nottmeier, a licensed clinical social worker employed by Chester. Mr. Nottmeier testified that he interviewed the respondent the day before the hearing, that he spoke with members of his treatment team, and that he "reviewed parts of his clinical file." He noted the respondent's diagnosis, that he had a history of suffering from a mental illness, and that, between 1997 and 2010, the respondent had 15 psychiatric hospitalizations, 7 of which had been at Chester. Mr. Nottmeier testified that the respondent displayed "delusional thought content which is grandiose, paranoid, and persecutory," that he periodically exhibited "inappropriate sexual conduct," that he was verbally and physically aggressive, that he was noncompliant with his medication, and that he displayed "poor insight into his mental illness."

¶ 7 Mr. Nottmeier noted that, on March 6, 2011, a peer threw a trash can at the respondent, and then the respondent struck the peer but did not have to be restrained or secluded because "he calmed." On March 17, 2011, the respondent was placed in seclusion after "antagonizing other peers to fight," and on April 22, 2011, he required seclusion again after being loud and demanding over "some minor commissary issues." Mr. Nottmeier stated that the respondent was under a "crush and observe" order to ensure that he took the medications prescribed to him. Mr. Nottmeier testified that, without a structured setting like Chester, the respondent's condition would further deteriorate so that he would be more likely to hurt himself or others; that because of his mental illness, he could not take care of his own basic physical needs; and that, based on how he had acted out in the month preceding the hearing, Chester was the least restrictive facility.

¶ 8 On cross-examination, Mr. Nottmeier testified that "it was noted" that on January 26, 2011, the respondent displayed delusional thought content by punching a bag in the gymnasium and thinking that "there was a song playing on the radio that the staff specifically put on to mess with him." He said that the respondent participated in therapy but that he sometimes threatened his therapist. Mr. Nottmeier testified that, on February 25, 2011, the respondent "became quite hostile and verbally aggressive during his therapy meeting." Mr. Nottmeier stated that, on April 27, 2011, "it was documented that he was uncooperative and was displaying threatening behavior." He acknowledged that the respondent had limited contact with some of his family members and that the respondent believed he could live with his brother if he were released from Chester. Mr. Nottmeier testified that he was not aware that the respondent had ever expressed a desire to become a voluntary patient, but he knew of no reason why the respondent could not elect to become a voluntary patient.

¶ 9 The respondent testified on his own behalf. His attorney asked him why he did not "feel the need to be within the department," and he responded, "Because I spent 21 years in the penitentiary for a crime that I committed." The respondent testified that, when he got out of the penitentiary, he watched his mother die. He said that from that day forward, he realized that he could not hurt anyone because he knew what it felt like to see someone he loved be hurt. He testified that he would take his medication if he were released because he had "absolutely no personality" and the medicine would keep him alive. He stated that, if he were released, he would be able to take care of his own basic physical needs and that he would live with his brother or his sister in Elgin.

¶ 10 At the end of the respondent's testimony, his attorney asked him about his desire to become a voluntary patient. The following colloquy ensued:

"Q. [Respondent's attorney:] Okay. And whenever we met this morning, you indicated that you would like to become a voluntary patient; is that correct?

A. Yes, sir. Q. Okay. Do you understand that you need to express that desire to your social worker?

A. I have, and he keeps telling me the same--for the last two years, he's told me, Lance, you got to do five to six months, then you can request voluntary admission, and then we'll ...

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