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In the Matter of:

March 6, 2013

IN THE MATTER OF: R.W.K., RESPONDENT AND APPELLANT.


APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Eighth Judicial District, In and For the County of Cascade, Cause No. ADI 11-040 Honorable Thomas M. McKittrick, Presiding Judge

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Patricia O. Cotter

Submitted on Briefs: January 3, 2013

Decided: March 5, 2013

Filed:

Clerk

Justice Patricia O. Cotter delivered the Opinion of the Court.

¶1 R.W.K. appeals from an order of Montana's Eighth Judicial District Court, Cascade County, granting the State's petition for the involuntary commitment of R.W.K. to the Montana State Hospital (MSH) and authorizing MSH to administer appropriate medication involuntarily. We affirm.

ISSUES

¶2 R.W.K. raises the following two issues on appeal:

¶3 1. Did the District Court violate R.W.K.'s statutory and due process rights when it failed to obtain a personal waiver of rights under § 53-21-119(1), MCA?

¶4 2. Is there a valid order authorizing involuntary medication, either in the original commitment order or in the District Court's amended order?

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

¶5 R.W.K. is a 55-year-old male with a history of schizoaffective disorder. On December 24, 2011, law enforcement officers transported R.W.K. to the emergency department at Benefis Health System (Benefis) in Great Falls, Montana, after R.W.K. caused a disturbance at a church. R.W.K. reportedly entered a church, laid down in a pew, and chanted "I'm dead, I'm dead, I'm dead." At the emergency room, R.W.K. refused to cooperate and continued to claim that he was dead. R.W.K. was admitted to the behavioral health unit for further treatment, but refused to walk or change into hospital garments. Dr. Mary Ann Evans attempted to interview R.W.K. and reported that he made little to no eye contact, would not speak, and refused to eat, take medication, or get dressed. Dr. Evans further reported that R.W.K. hit and shook the locked unit doors, spoke incoherently, and jumped up and down.

¶6 Before his admission at Benefis, R.W.K. lived in a group home and was a patient of the Center for Mental Health (CMH). The medical records attached to the commitment petition included information from CMH. CMH indicated that R.W.K. had refused to take his medications for several days prior to the incident at the church. CMH also noted that R.W.K.'s behavior had been disorganized and belligerent. R.W.K. was isolating in his room and not talking to anyone "because of the ghost." R.W.K. exhibited symptoms and behaviors that had been recognized in the past to indicate worsening psychosis. R.W.K.'s history includes many instances of psychiatric hospitalization, including time spent at MSH.

¶7 On December 28, 2011, the State filed a petition to involuntarily commit R.W.K. The petition alleged that R.W.K. was unable to care for his basic needs and appeared to pose a danger to himself and others. To determine if R.W.K. needed long-term treatment in a secure facility, the petition requested a mental health evaluation. The District Court set an initial appearance for December 30, 2011, and ordered the appointment of a public defender to represent R.W.K. R.W.K. was to remain at Benefis until the hearing. The District Court appointed a friend of respondent to serve pursuant to § 53-21-102(8), MCA.

ΒΆ8 On December 30, 2011, the District Court held a hearing to determine if R.W.K. was seriously mentally ill and in need of commitment. R.W.K. appeared at the hearing accompanied by his public defender and the appointed friend. The District Court opened the hearing by reading R.W.K. a list of his substantive and procedural rights related to the proceeding. Counsel for the State told the District Court that he had spoken to R.W.K.'s counsel and believed that R.W.K. and his counsel agreed that R.W.K. would ...


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