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In re Commitment of P.B.

Court of Appeals of Indiana

December 15, 2017

In the Matter of the Commitment of P.B., Appellant,
v.
Evansville State Hospital, Appellee.

         Appeal from the St. Joseph Superior Court The Honorable David C. Chapleau, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 71D05-1103-MH-57

          Attorney for Appellant Ernest P. Galos South Bend, Indiana.

          Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Kyle Hunter Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana.

          Barnes, Judge.

         Case Summary

         [¶1] P.B. appeals her involuntary commitment to Evansville State Hospital ("the Hospital"). We reverse.

         Issue

         [¶2] The sole issue before us is whether there is sufficient evidence to support the trial court's commitment order.

         Facts

         [¶3] P.B. has been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. In Indiana, P.B. has been in and out of involuntary commitments to mental hospitals since March 2011. She also has previously been hospitalized in Virginia and California. She attempted suicide on several occasions, the last time being in 2014.

         [¶4] P.B.'s most recent hospitalization began on December 5, 2016, when she was involuntarily committed to a hospital in South Bend. Prior to this commitment, her treating psychiatrist stated that P.B. was suffering "from symptoms of paranoia, delusions, and mood lability." App. Vol. II p. 41. She also had a recent history of threatening other residents of her apartment complex and being disruptive. She believed that her family and neighbors were breaking into her apartment at night and beating her up, and she was calling police two to three times a day making delusional claims about intruders. Generally, P.B. believed that her mother was conspiring against her, to harm her and she was extremely paranoid. P.B. had been "poorly compliant" with outpatient treatment to address her paranoia and regularly refused to take antipsychotic medication, believing it was poisonous. Id.

         [¶5] On February 13, 2017, P.B. was transferred to the Hospital, a State facility. On February 14, 2017, the trial court entered an order continuing P.B.'s regular commitment without hearing. On May 2, 2017, P.B. filed a request for review and dismissal of her commitment.

         [¶6] The trial court held a hearing on the matter on May 18, 2017. Dr. Boris Vatel, a psychiatrist at the Hospital, testified in favor of continuing P.B.'s commitment. He stated that P.B. had made "some progress" during her hospitalization but "I don't think that she has sufficiently improved in order to be able to manage herself independently in the community." Tr. p. 6. He further explained:

The main concerns that we have about why she requires a longer hospitalization is not that she is suicidal. I do not believe she is dangerous to herself. I also do not believe that she is physically dangerous to other people. I do believe there is a question of grave disability that has to do with her emotional functioning and with her ability to function around other people, and also to ...

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