This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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




In the Matter of:

Lawrence Tierney.

Filed July 15, 1997


Norton, Judge

Hennepin County District Court

File No. P38832952

Douglas F. McGuire, Smith.Fisher, MSB Center, Suite 400, 1401 West 76th Street, Richfield, MN 55423 (for appellant Lawrence Tierney)

Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Thomas G. Lavelle, Assistant County Attorney, A-2000 Government Center, 300 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent petitioner)

Considered and decided by Norton, Presiding Judge, Peterson, Judge, and Amundson, Judge.



Lawrence Tierney was initially committed as mentally ill and chemically dependent in July 1996. Before the initial six-month commitment period ended, another hearing was held. The trial court continued the commitment as mentally ill for 12 months. Tierney appeals, arguing that the evidence did not show he was likely to harm himself or others or that the least restrictive alternative was outpatient treatment. We affirm and hold the trial court had clear and convincing evidence from which to conclude appellant was likely to harm himself or others if not committed and that the Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center was the least restrictive alternative.


Appellant was initially committed as mentally ill and chemically dependent after he had eight hospitalizations in the previous several months and expressed paranoia, fearfulness, suicidal thoughts, and assaulted a male nurse. Before the initial commitment period of six months expired, a hearing was held on whether the commitment should be continued. Appellant was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and chemical dependency. The hospital encouraged him to become actively engaged in the dual mental illness/chemical dependency program, but appellant's behavior was not stable enough to participate. Once appellant completes treatment, the hospital plans to refer him to a community-based program. Appellant would prefer to participate in treatment on an outpatient basis.

The trial court continued appellant's commitment to the Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center as mentally ill for an additional 12-month period, and he appeals.


1. Appellant was initially committed as mentally ill for a six-month period. Minn. Stat. § 253B.09, subd. 5 (1996) (initial commitment period shall not exceed six months). The commitment may not be continued unless a written treatment report is filed and a hearing is held. Minn. Stat. § 253B.12, subd. 4 (1996).

In determining whether a person continues to be mentally ill, * * * the court need not find that there has been a recent attempt or threat to physically harm self or others, or a recent failure to provide necessary personal food, clothing, shelter, or medical care. Instead, the court must find that the person is likely to attempt to physically harm self or others, or to fail to provide necessary personal food, clothing, shelter, or medical care unless involuntary commitment is continued.


Trial court findings will be upheld unless clearly erroneous. In re Melcher, 404 N.W.2d 309, 312 (Minn. App. 1987). If the findings and record do not show that the standards for commitment are met, the commitment will be reversed. See In re McGaughey, 536 N.W.2d 621, 624 (Minn. 1995) (initial commitment).

The court found that if appellant were not involuntarily committed, he would likely attempt to physically harm himself or others and would fail to provide necessities. The court described his behavior generally at Anoka as demanding, agitated, and "med seeking." When his repeated requests for medication were not granted, he became very verbally abusive and intimidating with explosive outbursts. The court cited a chair-throwing incident on January 1, 1997, as well as incidents on December 24 and 30, 1996, in which appellant became extremely upset when his demands to see a psychiatrist immediately were not granted. Finally, while hospitalized, he bartered with someone to obtain marijuana and then became extremely upset when he realized what he received was not marijuana.

Appellant contends that there was no evidence to support the finding that if not committed, he was likely to be unable to provide necessities. He also contends there was no evidence he harmed himself or others while at Anoka, which he argues undermines any claim that he was likely to do so in the future. He asserts that speculation as to the likelihood of future harm fails to rise to the standard of clear and convincing evidence. See McGaughey, 536 N.W.2d at 623 (speculation as to future harm insufficient to justify commitment).

The record and findings clearly support the determination that appellant is likely to harm himself or others if released. Even within the structured setting of a hospital, appellant was unable to control his outbursts sufficiently to engage in treatment, and he continued to seek drugs. See In re Adams, 352 N.W.2d 117, 119 (Minn. App. 1984) (evidence showed patient could not provide necessities, would likely harm others due to hostile and angry outbursts, had threatened to kill others and himself, and needed medication to prevent outbursts). It is not necessary to reach the argument as to failure to provide necessities.

2. Appellant next challenges the trial court's decision to place him at the Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center for treatment, rather than allowing him to live independently and obtain outpatient treatment. When ordering continued commitment, the court must find that less restrictive alternatives have been considered and rejected. Minn. Stat. § 253B.12, subd. 7. The trial court decision will not be reversed unless clearly erroneous. In re King, 476 N.W.2d 190, 193 (Minn. App. 1991).

The trial court found that the least restrictive treatment was continued commitment to Anoka for a period of 12 months. The court considered less restrictive alternatives, such as dismissal of the proceedings or continued commitment for a shorter period, but rejected them because appellant had made little progress. The court found appellant's behavior had not really stabilized, and he was too ill to return to the community. Even while in the hospital, he was still attempting to obtain illegal drugs and had incidents of inappropriate behavior less than a week prior to the hearing. The court determined he needs the structure of inpatient treatment to stabilize his behavior and prepare him for a return to the community. The court noted that when appellant improves, a provisional discharge with complete discharge planning is the most suitable method to accomplish his return to the community. The court hoped that the support network of appellant's family, his significant other, and the family of his significant other will assist him while he is at Anoka and when he returns to the community.

The trial court's determination that Anoka is the least restrictive alternative is supported by clear and convincing evidence. See Adams, 352 N.W.2d at 119 (Anoka least restrictive alternative where patient not medically stabilized, did not recognize need for medication or need to control behavior, and no community would accept him).