This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).






In the Matter of:

Ramona Niven.


Filed February 6, 2001


Willis, Judge


Lac qui Parle County District Court

File No. P60094


Andrew J. Laufers, 506 Second Street West, Madison, MN  56256 (for appellant Niven)


John M. Tollefson, Lac qui Parle County Attorney, 677 Pine Street, P.O. Box 269, Dawson, MN  56232 (for respondent)


            Considered and decided by Shumaker, Presiding Judge, Willis, Judge, and Holtan, Judge.*

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            Ramona Niven appeals from her commitment to Project Turnabout as chemically dependent, contending that she was not committed to the least restrictive alternative.  We affirm.


            Appellant, who is chemically dependent, has received treatment at Project Turnabout some ten times, including treatment during several previous commitments as chemically dependent.  Despite treatment, she has suffered repeated relapses, including the one that led to her present commitment as chemically dependent.

            Dr. John Standahl, the court-appointed examiner, recommended that appellant be committed to Project Turnabout for a six-month period.  He explained that this facility was the least restrictive alternative for several reasons.  First, it offers an extended treatment program, which appellant needs because of the chronic nature of her condition.  Second, because of the staff’s familiarity with appellant, they will take a more flexible approach with her.  They suggested offering a succession of provisional discharges, which would allow appellant to leave after several weeks and return for more treatment if she relapses.  Finally, Project Turnabout is physically accessible to appellant, who has cerebral palsy, and is located near her home.

            Dr. Standahl testified that less restrictive alternatives would not be appropriate:   (1) Willmar Regional Treatment Center does not provide an extended treatment program and generally is not accessible to the handicapped; (2) appellant poses too much of a danger to herself and others for the petition to be dismissed; (3) voluntary treatment has not been effective in the past because she has left treatment against medical advice and she has quickly changed her mind as to whether she will participate voluntarily; (4) outpatient treatment has not been effective because appellant does not have enough control over her drinking; (5) appointment of a guardian would not aid her because the guardian most likely would not place her in a treatment center; and (6) short-term hospitalization is not appropriate because of the chronic nature of her condition.

            Appellant’s case manager believed that if appellant attended Alcoholics Anonymous and remained sober, she could remain in her home.  Further, he had advised her that he would not force her to return to Project Turnabout.  Appellant also did not believe that Project Turnabout would be appropriate because of her many unsuccessful placements there.  Instead, she proposed that she engage in intense counseling on an outpatient basis, receive marriage counseling, and continue to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

The district court, specifically rejecting the alternatives, found that only involuntary commitment for a six-month period to Project Turnabout would provide appellant with the care, support, and treatment she needs.  This appeal followed.


            An appellate court will not reverse a district court’s findings as to the least restrictive treatment program that can meet the patient’s needs unless clearly erroneous.  In re Kellor, 520 N.W.2d 9, 12 (Minn. App. 1994), review denied (Minn. Sept. 28, 1994).

            After the district court makes a threshold determination that the person is chemically dependent and that there is no suitable alternative to commitment, the court “shall commit the patient to the least restrictive treatment program or alternative programs which can meet the patient’s treatment needs * * * .”  Minn. Stat. § 253B.09, subd. 1 (1998).  The court must consider “a range of treatment alternatives including, but not limited to, community-based nonresidential treatment, community residential treatment, partial hospitalization, acute care hospital, and regional treatment center services.”  Id.  It must also consider the “proposed patient’s treatment preferences and willingness to participate in the treatment ordered.”  Id.  “The court may not commit a patient to a facility or program that is not capable of meeting the patient’s needs.”  Id.  The district court must examine whether the facility has the potential of treating the patient.  In re Cieminski, 374 N.W.2d 289, 292 (Minn. App. 1985), review denied (Minn. Nov. 18, 1995).

            Appellant contends that Project Turnabout has minimal potential to treat her successfully in light of the many attempts that have already failed.  She argues that the district court should have recognized this and allowed her to try a new approach that both she and her case manager endorsed, including at-home counseling and attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

            The district court considered the alternatives presented by the court-appointed examiner, by appellant, and by her case manager.  Based on all the evidence, it adopted the recommendation of the court-appointed examiner that appellant be committed to Project Turnabout.  In light of the facility’s proposed plan and its accessibility and proximity to appellant’s home, as well as her inability to control her drinking and engage in treatment voluntarily, and the danger she poses when she becomes intoxicated, the district court’s decision is not clearly erroneous.



* Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.