STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In Re: Todd Reynolds Fynskov.
Filed August 18, 1998
Olmsted County District Court
File No. P598116
Raymond F. Schmitz, County Attorney, Dennis Genereau, Jr., Assistant County Attorney, Olmsted County Government Center, 151 Fourth Street Southeast, Rochester, MN 55904 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge, Amundson, Judge, and Holtan, Judge.
Appellant challenges the district court's judgment committing him as a mentally ill person. He argues that he is capable of caring for himself, that he does not represent a threat to himself and others, and that the district court did not adequately consider less restrictive alternatives. We affirm.
In July 1997, appellant Todd Reynolds Fynskov allegedly left a sexually suggestive note and a nude photograph of himself under the door of a female acquaintance. This incident, followed by unwanted telephone calls by Fynskov to the woman, led to his arrest for harassment and indecent exposure. He was transferred from the Olmsted County Jail to the St. Peter Regional Treatment Center, a Minnesota security hospital (hospital), because he was not eating regularly due to his belief that his food and water were being drugged.
A month and a half after his admission to the hospital, Fynskov assaulted another patient, pouring a glass of water on him and twisting his eyeglasses. The hospital began emergency administration of neuroleptics (anti-psychotic medications). Meanwhile, a petition for Fynskov's civil commitment was filed. On February 6, 1998, the district court issued a warrant committing Fynskov for six months. This appeal followed.
Before ordering the civil commitment of a person for mental illness, the district court must determine by clear and convincing evidence that the person to be committed is mentally ill pursuant to the statute. Minn. Stat. § 253B.09, subd. 1 (Supp. 1997). On appeal, this court's review is limited to determining whether the statute was properly applied and whether the evidence justified the commitment. In Re Knops, 536 N.W.2d 616, 620 (Minn. 1995). This court reviews the record in the light most favorable to the district court's determination. Id.
Fynskov asserts that he is not mentally ill as defined by the statute because he does not pose the requisite harm to himself or others. A mentally ill person is defined by statute as
any person who has an organic disorder of the brain or a substantial psychiatric disorder of thought, mood, perception, orientation, or memory which grossly impairs judgment, behavior, capacity to recognize reality, or to reason or understand, which is manifested by instances of grossly disturbed behavior or faulty perceptions and poses a substantial likelihood of physical harm to self or others as demonstrated by:Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 13(a) (Supp. 1997).
(1) a failure to obtain necessary food, clothing, shelter, or medical care as a result of the impairment; or
(2) a recent attempt or threat to physically harm self or others.
Fynskov was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia for the purpose of disability insurance through social security, a diagnosis that was verified by both of his court-ordered psychological evaluations. Fynskov argues that while he experiences what he terms "situational stress and pressure," he is able to care for himself and does not pose a threat to himself or others. The requisite substantial likelihood of physical harm "must be demonstrated by an overt failure to obtain necessary food, clothing, shelter, or medical care or by a recent attempt or threat to harm self or others." In re McGaughey, 536 N.W.2d 621, 623 (Minn. 1995)(emphasis omitted).
Several findings made by the district court demonstrate Fynskov's potential harm to himself or others. First, Fynskov refused to eat regularly while he was in jail, to the point where he began to lose weight. He reported being concerned that doctors or other personnel were drugging his food, and possibly the water. Further, there is the issue of Fynskov's failure to address his medical care. After he was committed, while hospitalized, he refused to take his medication, resulting in his decompensation.
Fynskov has also demonstrated physical aggressiveness. Besides reports of his kicking the walls of his room while hospitalized, he assaulted another patient. He explained that the other patient had been a friend of his, but that the friend's religious beliefs began to annoy him, and so he approached him, twisting his glasses and throwing his glass of water on him.
The evidence supports the district court's finding that Fynskov was mentally ill under the statute.
The district court must determine, after careful consideration of reasonable options, that there is no suitable alternative to judicial commitment. Minn. Stat. § 253B.09, subd. 1 (Supp. 1997). The district court found that because of Fynskov's mental illness and his need for "a structured setting to address his neuroleptic medications," no suitable alternative to judicial commitment existed. This conclusion is supported by the evidence.
Once it is determined that there is no suitable alternative to judicial commitment, a person must be committed to the least restrictive treatment program that will meet the person's needs. Id. Fynskov argues that the district court failed to consider less restrictive alternatives, including outpatient care.
In considering less restrictive alternatives, the district court stated: "Voluntary outpatient and inpatient care is rejected because [Fynskov] is unwilling to take neuroleptic medications and denies his mental illness." Fynskov asserts that the court did not consider the option of outpatient supervision. Dr. Rosemary Linderman, one of the court-appointed psychologists who testified at the hearing, stated that she felt that the least restrictive option would be outpatient supervision, her main concern being that Fynskov continue to take his medications. However, the option of outpatient supervision was not available. Mary Burnett, a social worker with Olmsted County Department of Social Services, testified at the hearing that the type of monitoring Dr. Linderman seemed to recommend was not available because the appropriate programs were filled. While it is unfortunate that budgetary concerns limit what may be an appropriate option for Fynskov, the fact remains that the outpatient monitoring is not available. Fynskov clearly requires a mandatory, structured program to treat his mental illness. When the district court asked Fynskov if he would be willing to voluntarily commit himself to the hospital until the hospital staff determined that he was stabilized, Fynskov replied that he would not return to the hospital unless forced.