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Oregon Appeals Court Reverses Individual's Involuntary Commitment Because Record Did Not Show High Probability Of Injury

 
 

HLD, v. 30, n. 10 (October 2002)

Oregon Appeals Court Reverses Individual's Involuntary Commitment Because Record Did Not Show High Probability Of Injury

Diana Roberts, who suffers from bipolar schizoaffective disorder, was involuntarily committed to the state Mental Health Division for a period not to exceed 180 days. When not on medication, Roberts' condition causes her to become confused and wander the streets. Before her commitment, Roberts had been detained four times on a "mental health hold." The "notification of mental illness" that led to her commitment said she was "wandering--confused--disorganized" but did not indicate the specific incident that prompted her hospitalization. Mental health investigator Robert Skall concluded that Roberts was unable to care for her basic personal needs and was a danger to herself and others but did not describe any specific dangerous behavior other than her tendency to wander. Two mental health professionals examined Roberts before her commitment hearing and, relying heavily on Skall's report, reached similar conclusions as him. At the hearing, Skall acknowledged that his conclusions about Roberts were drawn from her history of wandering rather than the specific incident that led to her present hospitalization. While acknowledging that it did not have "good evidence regarding incidents which have resulted in danger to herself," the trial court found that Roberts' condition was such that she "would be [an] immediate danger to herself if released on the streets." Roberts appealed.

The Oregon Court of Appeals reversed, finding the evidence did not meet the "extraordinary persuasiveness" standard required for involuntary commitment. While a person may be deemed a danger to herself based on an emerging pattern of self-destructive behavior, the appeals court found no indication in the record that Roberts' behavior had ever caused any injury. "[T]his case does not present a situation in which authorities interrupted a sequence of events that has, in the past, led to disaster," the appeals court said. Thus, the appeals court concluded that the record did not indicate injury to Roberts was "highly probable." Accordingly, the appeals court reversed the commitment order.

Oregon v. Roberts, No. A114854 (Or. Ct. App. Aug. 28, 2002) (4 pages).

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