Conservatorship of Jesse G.
Filed June 23, 2016, First District, Div. Two Cite as A145749
Jesse G. had a history of multiple mental health hospitalizations and diagnoses, including schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type, and antisocial personality disorder. He was hospitalized temporarily under Welfare and Institutions Code section 5150 following an incident of bizarre behavior. The public guardian's expert testified that Jesse was schizophrenic, suffered from auditory hallucinations, and suffered from various substance abuse disorders. Jesse denied that he was suicidal, acknowledged his mental health problems, and felt that he could control them with medication. His friend Michael Elmer testified that Jesse had lived with him in the past, could live with him in the future, and that he would control Jesse’s medications and prevent any substance abuse in the home. The court nevertheless found that Jesse was gravely disabled because his underlying mental condition interfered with his ability to provide for his food, shelter and clothing, and because Elmer's work commitments would make him unavailable if Jesse needed help.
The Court of Appeal reversed. “Gravely disabled” is a condition in which a person, as a result of a mental health disorder, is unable to provide for his basic personal needs for food, clothing or shelter. But a person is not gravely disabled if he can survive without involuntary detention with the help of responsible family, friends, or others who are willing or able to help meet his needs. Though Jesse did suffer from a mental health disorder, Elmer's testimony demonstrated that Jesse could survive safely in the community without involuntary detention. If the fact that Elmer was at work during some of each day automatically negated the third party assistance factor, then offers of third party assistance would rarely, if ever, be sufficient to avoid a finding of grave disability. That would defeat the purpose of the LPS Act, which is to use the involuntary commitment power only in those cases where gravely disabled persons are unable to provide for their basic needs either alone or with the help of others.