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In re C.G.

Supreme Court of Montana

February 13, 2018

IN THE MATTER OF: C.G., Respondent and Appellant.

          Submitted on Briefs: January 17, 2018

         APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Eleventh Judicial District, In and For the County of Flathead, Cause No. DI 16-39A Honorable Amy Eddy, Presiding Judge

          For Appellant: Chad Wright, Appellate Defender, Moses Okeyo, Assistant Appellate Defender, Helena, Montana

          For Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Ryan Aikin, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana Ed Corrigan, Flathead County Attorney, Caitlin Overland, Deputy County Attorney, Kalispell, Montana

          LAURIE McKINNON JUDGE

         ¶1 Pursuant to Section I, Paragraph 3(c), Montana Supreme Court Internal Operating Rules, this case is decided by memorandum opinion and shall not be cited and does not serve as precedent. Its case title, cause number, and disposition shall be included in this Court's quarterly list of noncitable cases published in the Pacific Reporter and Montana Reports.

         ¶2 C.G. appeals from an order of the Eleventh Judicial District Court, Flathead County, involuntarily committing her to a community treatment facility for up to five days. We affirm.

         ¶3 C.G.'s commitment followed an incident in July 2016, where C.G. swam approximately 100 yards out into Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park and refused to return to shore. At the time, C.G., age 24, lived in a recreational vehicle with Birch Bergeson (Bergeson), her boyfriend, and her three young children, ages five, one and one-half, and four months. Law enforcement in a boat rescued C.G. from the water. C.G. appeared to be disoriented and struggled to provide her children's names when asked. Law enforcement transported C.G. to Pathways Behavioral Health Center (Pathways).

         ¶4 Subsequently, the State filed a petition seeking C.G.'s involuntary commitment to the Montana State Hospital (MSH) for a period not to exceed three months. The State's petition alleged C.G. suffers from a mental disorder and requires commitment. Five days after the State filed its petition, the District Court held an adjudicatory hearing. At the hearing, several witnesses testified. Bergeson testified on C.G.'s behalf. Bergeson testified that C.G. is a great mother, but is "stressed" and suffered a "meltdown" when she swam out into the lake. Bergeson implied that C.G. may be suffering from postpartum depression. C.G. testified that she went swimming in the lake simply because she was hot and that law enforcement did not need to rescue her. C.G. also testified that she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and being confined at Pathways away from her children is "torture."

         ¶5 Dr. Todd Shumard (Shumard), a psychiatrist at Pathways, testified that C.G. has schizoaffective disorder and is labile, or emotionally unstable. Shumard reviewed C.G.'s mental health history and saw that she was admitted to Pathways as a teenager because of mood instability and delusional, magical thinking. Shumard testified about C.G.'s behavior during her current admission at Pathways. According to Shumard, C.G. was reluctant to eat or bathe, was threatening toward others, got too close to others, and grabbed her therapist's face. Shumard testified that C.G. was taking one type of medication, but not the other recommended types, and her mental health was improving. At the time of the hearing, Shumard testified that he did not believe C.G. "could adequately manage herself without some outside help." Shumard recognized C.G. struggled at Pathways because she was separated from her children, but expressed concern about her safety and ability to care for herself if she were released. Shumard testified that C.G. would benefit from a few more days away from her children, but that a lengthy commitment to MSH would likely exacerbate her mental health issues.

         ¶6 Following the adjudicatory hearing, the District Court concluded C.G., because of her schizoaffective disorder, could not provide for her own health and safety and was a threat to herself and others. The District Court determined that placing C.G. in a community environment was the least restrictive option. The District Court ordered C.G.'s commitment to Pathways for no more than five days.

         ¶7 On appeal, C.G. argues the District Court erred by concluding, under § 53-21-126(1)(a), (c), MCA, that she was unable to provide for her own basic needs and was in imminent threat of injuring herself or others. If, during its consideration of a petition for involuntary commitment, a court determines that the respondent is suffering from a mental disorder, "the court shall then determine whether the respondent requires commitment." Section 53-21-126(1), MCA. In making its determination, the court shall consider:

(a) whether the respondent, because of a mental disorder, is substantially unable to provide for the respondent's own basic needs of food, ...

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