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State v. A.T.

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 1

September 16, 2013

STATE OF WASHINGTON, Respondent, A.T., Appellant.

UNPUBLISHED

Cox, J.

A.T. challenges his involuntary 90-day commitment under RCW 71.05.280. He contends that there was insufficient evidence to support the conclusion that he was "gravely disabled." We disagree and affirm.

In January 2012, Seattle Police brought A.T. to Psychiatric Emergency Services at Harborview Medical Center after he was found running naked in cold weather. A.T. was committed for involuntary treatment for 14 days. This was A.T.'s third hospitalization since December 2011.

The State then filed a petition to commit A.T. for an additional 90 days of involuntary treatment. The petition alleged that A.T. was "gravely disabled" due to a mental disorder.

At the trial, the State presented testimony from Harborview psychiatrist, Dr. Sharon Romm, and from Harborview Social Worker, Christine Winther. These two expert witnesses testified to their interactions with A.T., their observations of A.T.'s behavior, and detailed information contained in A.T.'s charts. Both experts expressed the opinion that A.T. was not ready for a less restrictive setting.

A.T. testified that if he were to leave the hospital, he would go to his mother's house. A.T. also believed that he would be able to obtain employment.

The court entered findings of fact and conclusions of law. It found the testimony of both expert witnesses to be credible and incorporated their testimony into its findings. The court concluded that A.T. was gravely disabled and entered an order committing him for an additional 90 days.

A.T. appeals.

SUFFICIENCY OF THE EVIDENCE

A.T. argues that the trial court's findings of fact are not supported by substantial evidence, and these findings do not support its conclusion that A.T. was "gravely disabled." We disagree.

A person is "gravely disabled" if "as a result of a mental disorder, " he or she either:

(a) Is in danger of serious physical harm resulting from a failure to provide for his or her essential human needs of health or safety; or (b) manifests severe deterioration in routine functioning evidenced by repeated and escalating loss of cognitive or volitional control over his or her actions and is not receiving such care as is essential for his or her health or safety.[1]

Under either definition, the potential for harm must be '"great enough to justify such a massive curtailment of liberty.'"[2] Under subsection (a), the standard on which the trial court exclusively relied in this case, the danger of serious physical harm need not be evidenced by recent, overt acts.[3] Instead, it "usually arises from passive behavior - Le., the failure or inability to provide for one's essential needs."[4] A person's "essential needs" may include food, clothing, shelter, and medical treatment.[5] Finally, the State must present "recent, tangible evidence of failure or inability to provide for such essential human needs .. . ...


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