This opinion will be unpublished and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:

Gregory Darell Stern.


Filed October 23, 2001


Randall, Judge


Kanabec County District Court

File No. P5-01-126


Ann M. Tessneer, 126 South Adams Street, Suite B, Cambridge, MN 55008 (for appellant Gregory Stern)


Norman J. Loren, Kanabec County Attorney, Paul L. Henderson, Assistant County Attorney, 18 North Vine Street, Suite 202, Mora, MN 55051 (for respondent county)


Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge, Randall, Judge, and Halbrooks, Judge.


R. A. RANDALL, Judge

Appellant challenges the district court's decision to revoke his stayed commitment, arguing that (1) completion of a chemical dependency treatment program was not a material condition of his stay, and (2) the record does not support the district court's finding that appellant failed to complete the treatment program. We affirm.


Seven years ago, appellant Gregory Darell Stern was in a serious motorcycle accident, which resulted in paraplegia. Since the accident, Stern has been significantly depressed, has threatened suicide and attempted suicide on at least one occasion, and has been dependent on Valium and Percocet for pain. After an incident in which Stern locked himself in his bedroom, threatened suicide, and threatened his wife's life, which resulted in a stand-off with police, respondent Kanabec County petitioned the district court to commit Stern as mentally ill.

The district court determined that Stern should be committed, but the court stayed its order for six months, which was contingent upon Stern's compliance with the conditions the court set forth in its order staying commitment. As part of the court's conditions, Stern was required to complete a chemical dependency assessment and comply with all of the assessor's recommendations. The assessor recommended that Stern complete an inpatient chemical dependency treatment program. After entering treatment, the facility discharged Stern because he did not comply with the program, and the county moved to revoke the stay of commitment. The district court granted the county's motion, finding that Stern had intentionally failed to comply with a material condition of the court's stayed commitment order because he did not complete the chemical dependency treatment program. Stern now appeals from this decision.


The district court has statutory authority to stay a mental illness commitment order. Minn. Stat. 253B.095, subd. 1 (2000). If the court stays a commitment order for more than 14 days, it must provide conditions that the person must meet to avoid imposition of the stayed order. Id., subd. 1(d). The court may revoke the stay, after notice and a hearing, if there is clear and convincing evidence of a substantial failure to comply with a material condition set forth by the court. Id., subd. 5 (2000); In re Roberds, 473 N.W.2d 378, 380 (Minn. App. 1991).

I. Material Condition of Stayed Order

Stern argues that the district court improperly revoked the stay because he did not violate a material condition of the stayed commitment order. Specifically, he asserts that completion of a chemical dependency treatment program is not a material condition because the commitment order was based on mental illness rather than chemical dependency.

The record demonstrates that there was concern about the interplay between Stern's mental health and his chemical use. The physician, who examined Stern to determine if Stern should be committed, diagnosed him with major depression and polysubstance dependence. The examiner determined that Stern had chronic irritation with frequent anger outbursts, chemical dependency, suicidal ideations, and an overall depressed mood with a sense of hopelessness. In his report to the court, the examiner stated that Stern's "chemical dependency may be the highest priority for treatment. Without sobriety he cannot work on his depression and acceptance of his disability." (Emphasis added.) The examiner's recommendation to stay Stern's commitment was contingent upon Stern's "cooperation with social services and related mental and chemical health programs." (Emphasis added.)

In addition, to a certain degree, three out of the four conditions set forth by the district court as part of the stayed order addressed Stern's chemical use. The court's conditions were:

a. [Stern] shall take all prescribed medications, pursuant to recommended dosage and rates;


b. [Stern] shall complete a chemical dependency assessment and follow all recommendations;


c. [Stern] shall not possess or use * * * firearms and/or weapons of any kind; and


d. [Stern] shall not use or possess alcohol and/or mood altering substances unless prescribed by doctors.


Finally, as part of the chemical dependency assessment, his caseworker determined that Stern is chemically dependent and recommended that he successfully complete, at a minimum, a 28-day inpatient chemical dependency treatment program.

Stern's failure to complete treatment violated the court's condition that he follow all recommendations from the chemical dependency assessment. Because the record demonstrates that treatment for Stern's chemical use is an important step that needs to be addressed before he can start tackling his mental health issues, his failure to complete treatment is a substantial failure to comply with a material condition set forth by the court. The fact that Stern was committed for mental illness rather than chemical dependency is not controlling because the ultimate goal of treatment was to provide Stern with proper care and medicine, and hopefully to render further supervision unnecessary. See Minn. Stat.  253B.03, subd. 7 (2000) (stating person receiving care has right to receive proper care and treatment to render further supervision unnecessary); cf. In re Smith, 392 N.W.2d 582, 584 (Minn. App. 1986) (concluding treatment facility is not bound by commitment order's label and can treat person committed as chemically dependent for mental illness). The record demonstrates that Stern has chemical dependency and mental illness problems. Proper care includes treatment for both.

II. Clear and Convincing Evidence

Stern argues that the county did not present clear and convincing evidence that he failed to conduct himself in a fashion that would allow for successful completion of the treatment program, which was the basis of the district court's decision to revoke its stay of commitment order. We disagree.

Contrary to Stern's assertion, the county did present convincing evidence to support the court's order to revoke his stay. The counselor assigned to Stern while he was in the treatment facility testified that to successfully complete treatment, Stern was required to fulfill all clinical care plan treatment goals. These goals included completing log book journals and sharing the journals in group sessions, attending all required programming in groups, and following his case manager's recommendation on applicator plans. Stern's counselor testified that Stern failed to follow through with treatment expectations and was disrespectful and belligerent to peers and staff; presented drug-seeking behavior; and failed to attend all required groups and comply with program rules. Further, the record indicates that Stern failed to acknowledge a chemical dependency problem.

Stern's caseworker from the county testified that she met with Stern and his counselor to address some of these problems. Stern's counselor and his case manager stressed the importance of following the program's rules to successfully complete treatment. They specifically discussed each of the problem areas with Stern, and Stern agreed to try to correct his behavior. Despite a second chance, the record indicates no appreciable change in Stern's behavior. Stern did testify that he thought he was not disrespectful or belligerent, did not intentionally fail to attend sessions, did not exhibit drug-seeking behavior, and said he had successfully completed his log books. We can only note that since there were inconsistencies between his testimony and his counselor's testimony, appellate courts are deferential to credibility determinations made by the district court. See Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01 (stating deference must be given to district court's opportunity to assess witnesses' credibility). Based on the corroborating testimony of Stern's counselor and caseworker, the record supports the district court's decision to revoke the stay of commitment order.