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In re M.E.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

April 5, 2017

IN THE MATTER OF M.E., Alleged to Be Seriously Mentally Impaired, M.E., Respondent-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Cherokee County, Charles K. Borth, District Associate Judge.

         M.E. appeals the district associate judge's order of continued commitment under Iowa Code chapter 229 (2016). AFFIRMED.

          Jack B. Bjornstad of Jack Bjornstad Law Office, Okoboji, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Gretchen W. Kraemer, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Doyle and Tabor, JJ.

          TABOR, Judge.

         M.E. appeals an order of the district associate judge (DAJ) continuing her inpatient commitment under Iowa Code section 229.14A (2016). M.E. argues the State failed to prove she lacked sufficient judgment to make responsible decisions about her treatment. The State raises a jurisdictional issue. We find we have jurisdiction to consider M.E.'s appeal, and because there is clear and convincing evidence in the record demonstrating M.E.'s lack of judgmental capacity, we affirm.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         In early April 2016, a medical provider at Cherokee Regional Medical Center filed an application alleging M.E., who had been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, was delusional and experiencing hallucinations. According to police officers who brought M.E. to the medical center, M.E. had been digging through a cigarette-disposal unit and harassing customers at a local Casey's General Store. M.E. told medical staff she had stopped taking her prescribed medications because "they are harmful to me." Following a hearing before the district court on April 22, M.E. was involuntarily committed for inpatient treatment at the Cherokee Mental Health Institute (MHI) pursuant to Iowa Code section 229.13.

         In May, June, and July of 2016, M.E. wrote a series of letters to the court requesting a hearing under section 229.14A on her continued placement. The DAJ held a hearing on July 29. Initially, the State offered no evidence at the hearing other than a periodic report from the MHI opining that M.E.'s condition remained unchanged and recommending continued hospitalization. M.E. requested release for outpatient treatment and then made a statement to the court, specifically raising concerns about the lack of religious services at the MHI, her restricted access to the telephone, and her inability to contact her husband. She also questioned her course of treatment:

The medications I am on are wrong, and I think and . . . truly believe, as I do feel-I know my own body. Prolixin decanoate was the one that worked for me. And the only reason that I even went in and out of hospitals was because I was partying. I think I need drug and alcohol treatment.
. . . . I feel more stable when I'm on that. It just helps me to be myself normally. I've been on it most of my life. And the only reason, like I said, I did come back in and out of the hospital is because I was partying and being mean to people. It had nothing to do with the Prolixin.

M.E. also told the court one of the medications she received at the MHI, Zyprexa, had unpleasant side effects: "It makes me slow down so much that I can't function. I don't know what I'm doing half the time. Right now I'm very- struggling to speak right now."

         In response, the State offered the testimony of Mary Baughman, a physician assistant at the MHI. Baughman discussed an alternate oral medication that had worked well to stabilize M.E.'s mood in the past, but because M.E. had refused to take it, Baughman had resorted to Zyprexa, which could be administered through an injection.[1] Baughman testified the side effects described by M.E. were actually signs of the medication's benefits: "[I]n my opinion, she struggles when things start to slow her down from her manic high, and ...


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