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Court Upholds Commitment In Mental Illness Dispute

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George Hodan (Public Domain Pictures)

A state appeals court Friday upheld a judge’s decision to involuntarily commit a man to an inpatient treatment facility, despite the man’s arguments that his mental illness did not pose a danger to his well-being and that other less-restrictive alternatives were available. 

A panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal said it could have treated the Southwest Florida case as moot because a three-month time frame in the commitment order had already passed, but it said similar issues could recur.

The case focused on a man, identified only by the initials D.F., who suffers from a mood disorder and dementia.

The director of Riverside Behavioral Center in Punta Gorda filed a petition seeking involuntary inpatient treatment for D.F., whose psychiatrist also recommended that he be placed in a closed facility.

In part, D.F. was “mildly” malnourished and had no family or friends to care for him, Friday’s ruling said.

D.F. argued that he did not pose a threat to himself and that he could be placed in a group home. But the appeals court, in a nine-page order, upheld the commitment order by a Charlotte Court circuit judge, which followed a recommendation from a magistrate.

“Although D.F. was mildly, not grossly, malnourished, we are not prevented from concluding that the state presented evidence of specific occasions where D.F.'s failure to take medication and take care of himself resulted in substantial harm to his well-being,” said Friday’s ruling, written by Chief Judge Edward LaRose and joined by judges Darryl Casanueva and J. Andrew Atkinson. “We note that the malnutrition followed shortly after D.F.'s last discharge from a group home. Thus, the trial court did not err in adopting the magistrate's finding that the state presented clear and convincing evidence that, without treatment, D.F. would pose a real and present threat of substantial harm to himself.”