[T]he Wisconsin Supreme Court clarified that persons with Alzheimer’s disease or incurable disorders cannot be involuntarily committed under a statutory scheme designed for short-term commitment and treatment of mentally ill individuals.
In 2010, Fond Du Lac County instituted proceedings under the state’s Alcohol, Drug Abuse, Developmental Disabilities and Mental Health Act (Wis. Stat. ch. 51) for the involuntary commitment and treatment of an 85-year-old woman (Helen).
In general, ch. 51 allows a county to petition for involuntary commitment of persons with mental disorders or illnesses, developmental disabilities, or alcohol or drug problems.
Helen, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and had been living in a nursing home, began exhibiting aggressive behavior toward caregivers. She was eventually transported to an emergency room for medical treatment, resulting in the petition for involuntary commitment.
Ultimately, a circuit court granted the county’s petition for involuntary commitment under ch. 51, which would allow the county to place Helen in a psychiatric unit, initially for up to six months, and administer psychotropic medication if deemed necessary to treat her.
However, the court of appeals reversed, concluding that Helen was not a proper subject for treatment under ch. 51. In Fond Du Lac County v. Helen E.F., 2012 WI 50 (May 18, 2012), a Wisconsin Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the court of appeals.
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Individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease Cannot Be Involuntarily Committed Under Chapter 51