This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. sec. 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).




In Re:

Jennifer Rebecca Karr.

Filed May 19, 1998


Harten, Judge

Rice County District Court

File No. P8-97-001503

Jeffrey M. Johnson, Schurhammer & Johnson, P.A., 25 Northwest Second Street, Faribault, MN 55021 (for appellant)

Jeffrey D. Thompson, Rice County Attorney, 218 Northwest Third Street, Faribault, MN 55021 (for respondent)

Considered and decided by Crippen, Presiding Judge, Davies, Judge, and Harten, Judge.



Appellant Jennifer Karr appeals her commitment for chemical dependency. Karr argues that her drug and alcohol use do not render her incapable of managing her affairs. We affirm.


On November 27, 1997, Karr attempted suicide by overdosing on Percocet, a prescription drug. She experienced tremors and called 911. Julie Weir responded to the call. Karr told Weir that she wanted to kill herself because she was going to be homeless the next day and was sick and tired of her constant struggles. Karr was placed on a 72-hour hold at Wilson Center in Faribault.

On December 1, 1997, while at Wilson Center, Karr attempted suicide by self-strangulation with a bed sheet. Amy Schwake-Thompson, a Center employee, found Karr in time to save her life. Schwake-Thompson testified that Karr expressed feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Karr told Schwake-Thompson that she had family problems, used drugs, did not have a place to stay, and had just broken up with her boyfriend.

Karr later explained to Melissa Morstad, another Center employee, that she had tried to kill herself because she had lost her jobs, was in debt, had family problems, and was an alcoholic. Karr also told Morstad that her drug habit was very costly, was messing up her life, and was another reason that she wanted to kill herself. Karr stated that she wanted to leave Wilson Center and jump off a bridge, and that even if she could not leave, she would find another suicide opportunity. Karr told Morstad that she had been evicted from the hotel where she had been living.

On December 3, 1997, Karr was transferred to St. Peter Regional Treatment Center. A petition for commitment as chemically dependent was filed, and on December 15, 1997, a commitment hearing was held.

Penney Zwecker, a licensed psychologist, testified as court-appointed examiner. Zwecker concluded that Karr is dependent on amphetamines, alcohol, and nicotine, and abuses marijuana and crack cocaine. Zwecker testified that Karr said she would not participate voluntarily in chemical dependency treatment. Karr also told Zwecker that she would resume her drug and alcohol use if she were released.

Zwecker testified that Karr had difficulty providing for shelter because she spent her money on drugs rather than rent. Zwecker was also concerned because Karr had bounced some checks and was in debt. In addition, Zwecker was concerned for Karr's safety were she not committed. She stated that Karr exhibits self-injurious and suicidal behavior and makes poor decisions based on impulse. Zwecker also testified that an examining physician had expressed concern about Karr's liver function test due to her drug use. Zwecker testified that there was no reasonable alternative to commitment.

Karr testified that she had intended to kill herself, but no longer felt suicidal. She admitted using amphetamines, alcohol, marijuana, and crack cocaine and stated, "I know I have a chemical problem." Nevertheless, she testified that her suicide attempts were unrelated to her chemical abuse.

The district court made oral findings that Karr is chemically dependent, that her use of drugs led to her suicide attempts, and that she had no place to live. In its written findings and order, the district court found that Karr is chemically dependent and in need of treatment, and that without treatment Karr may attempt suicide again or place herself in want or suffering. The district court committed Karr to the Liberalis Women's Treatment Center at Cloquet, a satellite program of the Moose Lake Regional Treatment Center. This appeal followed.


We will not reverse the district court's finding of chemical dependency unless it is clearly erroneous. In re Galusha, 372 N.W.2d 843, 847 (Minn. App. 1985).

Minnesota law provides that if the district court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the proposed patient is a chemically dependent person, it shall commit the patient to the least restrictive treatment program capable of meeting the patient's needs, provided there is no suitable alternative to commitment. Minn. Stat. § 253B.09, subd. 1 (Supp. 1997). A "chemically dependent person" is

any person (a) determined as being incapable of self-management or management of personal affairs by reason of the habitual and excessive use of alcohol, drugs, or other mind-altering substances; and (b) whose recent conduct as a result of habitual and excessive use of alcohol, drugs, or other mind-altering substances poses a substantial likelihood of physical harm to self or others as demonstrated by (i) a recent attempt or threat to physically harm self or others, (ii) evidence of recent serious physical problems, or (iii) a failure to obtain necessary food, clothing, shelter, or medical care.

Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 2 (Supp. 1997).

"Self-management," within the meaning of Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 2, refers to the handling of ordinary events that arise in daily living. In re Heurung, 446 N.W.2d 694, 696 (Minn. App. 1989). One who "self-manages" performs ordinary activities, copes with ordinary stresses, and independently cares for oneself in the ordinary course of daily life. Id. Karr concedes that she uses chemicals, but argues that she does not meet the definition of a chemically dependent person, because her chemical use does not render her incapable of self-management.

Here, the evidence shows that Karr attempted suicide twice within four days and she threatened to try again if released from the treatment facility. Suicide attempts imply an inability to self-manage. Karr's inability to self-manage is demonstrated by her lack of housing, her debt, and her physical health problems. There was testimony that Karr believed that she was evicted from her hotel. Zwecker testified that Karr cannot manage her personal affairs because she chooses to buy drugs rather than pay to maintain shelter. Karr has also bounced several checks, at least some of which were for drug purchases. Zwecker testified that a physician expressed concern about Karr's physical health due to her drug abuse. Accordingly, the district court's finding that Karr was incapable of self-management was not clearly erroneous.

The statute also requires that the inability to self-manage result from chemical use. Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 2. The evidence supports a finding that Karr's suicide attempt episodes were related to her drug use. Schwake-Thompson and Morstad both testified that Karr listed chemical abuse as one of the problems that led to her suicide attempts. Zwecker opined that chemical abuse was a reason for the suicide attempt episodes. The relationship between the chemical use and the suicide attempts is also demonstrated by the fact that Karr attempted suicide by means of a chemical overdose. Finally, Karr's chemical dependency caused problems in her life that triggered her suicide attempts. For example, Karr said that one reason for her suicidal tendencies was the fact that she was going to be evicted from the hotel where she was living. She was facing eviction because she could not pay rent, and she could not pay rent because she spent her money on drugs. The district court did not clearly err in attributing Karr's suicide attempts to her chemical abuse.

We conclude that the district court did not clearly err in adjudicating Karr chemically dependent and ordering her commitment.