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In re J.E.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 21, 2019

IN THE MATTER OF J.E., Alleged to be Seriously Mentally Impaired, J.E., Respondent-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, Bradley J. Harris, Judge.

         The respondent challenges the district court's order of continued involuntary inpatient commitment.

          Christina M. Shriver, Waterloo, for appellant.

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

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

          POTTERFIELD, Presiding Judge.

         J.E. challenges the district court's order of continued involuntary inpatient commitment. J.E. maintains there is insufficient evidence to support the determination he is a present danger to himself or others and requires continued placement in an alternative care facility. "An involuntary hospitalization proceeding is triable as an ordinary action at law." In re Melodie L., 591 N.W.2d 4, 6 (Iowa 1999). "Our review is for errors at law." Id.

         J.E. has been involuntarily committed to the same 24-hour-care facility since 2013. During that time, J.E. has asked for and received a number of placement hearings.

         Pursuant to Iowa Code section 229.15 (2018), the chief medical officer from the facility at which J.E. is committed completed a periodic report in October 2018. The report indicated J.E. remained seriously mentally impaired and needed full-time custody and care (though not in a hospital setting). The hospitalization referee entered an order continuing J.E.'s placement at the 24-hour-care facility. Pursuant to section 229.14A, J.E. requested a hearing for review of placement.

         The hearing took place in November 2018.[1] Afterward, the judicial hospitalization referee found by clear and convincing evidence that J.E. remained seriously mentally impaired and in need of treatment and full-time custody. The referee noted:

[J.E.] last had a placement hearing on June 16, 2018. As a result of that hearing Country View staff placed [J.E.] on a Medication Education Program. The results of that program were reported in August, 2018. [J.E.] has serious medical issues including diabetes requiring daily shots and polydipsia which requires monitoring and restriction of fluid intake. [J.E.] clearly made efforts to be able to manage his medications during the time of the program. He learned to name his medications and to be able to state what they were prescribed for. However, despite his efforts he was only able to seek his medications without prompting fifty-three percent of the time. This is not sufficiently regular to keep him safe. He also continues to be irresponsible about his restricted fluid intake, stealing water and taking it to his room. Without supervision he is likely to consume too much liquid. His other behaviors which are barriers to [living] in a habilitation home include stealing things such as blankets and pillows from other patients and coming out of his room unclothed.

         J.E. appealed the ruling to the district court, which affirmed the hospitalization referee's order, stating:

It is the court's determination that [J.E.] is unrealistic in his belief that he can continue to sell real estate and is able to live by himself. [J.E.] dresses inappropriately for the season and fails to follow a restricted diet as is necessary due to his diabetic condition. Additionally, he picks at his scalp and has caused numerous sores. Without proper reminders, he would fail to take his required medication. Although not violent or abusive, the above conditions make [J.E.] a danger to himself if he were not in a structured setting.
Although [J.E.] seems to concede that he is need of assistance to see to his daily needs, he is requesting a less secure facility to allow him to live on his own. Testimony was presented that four separate treatment providers have been contacted as alternative placements for [J.E.]. All four providers ...

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