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William C. v. Weinstock

May 26, 2009

IN THE MATTER OF WILLIAM C. (ANONYMOUS), APPELLANT;
v.
DEAN R. WEINSTOCK, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF PILGRIM PSYCHIATRIC CENTER, RESPONDENT.



APPEAL by William C., in a proceeding pursuant to Mental Hygiene Law § 9.60 to authorize assisted outpatient treatment, as limited by his brief, from so much of an order and judgment (one paper) of the Supreme Court (James F. X. Doyle), dated July 25, 2007, and entered in Suffolk County as, after a hearing, authorized the appointment of a money manager as a component of assisted outpatient treatment.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Balkin, J.

Published by New York State Law Reporting Bureau pursuant to Judiciary Law § 431.

This opinion is uncorrected and subject to revision before publication in the Official Reports.

WILLIAM F. MASTRO, J.P., ANITA R. FLORIO, RUTH C. BALKIN and RANDALL T. ENG, JJ.

OPINION & ORDER

(Index No. 19929-07)

DECISION & ORDER

Enacted in 1999, Mental Hygiene Law § 9.60, commonly known as Kendra's Law,*fn1 provides a framework for the judicial authorization of involuntary outpatient treatment programs for persons suffering from mental illnesses. It requires those persons who have a history of medication noncompliance and decompensation to receive mental health services, or else face involuntary commitment. The issue of apparent first impression at the appellate level is whether Mental Hygiene Law § 9.60 authorizes the appointment of a money manager to assist with the financial affairs of a mentally ill person, who has not been declared incapacitated. Based on the language and history of Kendra's Law, we conclude that the statute so authorizes.

I.

The following facts essentially are undisputed. By order to show cause and petition dated July 20, 2007, the petitioner, Dean R. Weinstock, as Executive Director of Pilgrim Psychiatric Center (hereinafter the Hospital), a hospital licensed and operated by the New York State Office of Mental Health, commenced the instant proceeding in the Supreme Court, Suffolk County, seeking authorization for the imposition of an involuntary assisted outpatient treatment (hereinafter AOT) program pursuant to Mental Hygiene Law § 9.60, for William C. The accompanying petition alleged that William C., a 43-year-old suffering from mental illness, was unlikely to survive safely in the community without supervision, had a history of lack of compliance with treatment for mental illness, and had been hospitalized at least twice within the preceding 36 months, before transfer to the Hospital.

The petition was supported by the affirmation of Dr. Soumitra Chatterjee, a psychiatrist who had medically evaluated William C. on July 12, 2007, as well as a prepared Treatment Plan Worksheet pursuant to Mental Hygiene Law § 9.60 and a Medication Worksheet, outlining his treatment and prescribed medications. Dr. Chatterjee affirmed that William C. had been diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder, Bipolar Type — a severe and chronic mental illness as defined by Mental Hygiene Law § 1.03(20) — spanning a psychiatric history of at least 20 hospitalizations for mental illness dating back to the 1980s. Dr. Chatterjee asserted that William C.'s noncompliance had "resulted in him losing his apartment, [and] becoming homeless." He further opined that William C. was unlikely to participate voluntarily with the treatment recommended for him, explaining that:

"When non-compliant with medication, [William C.] experiences rapid decompensation, becomes agitated, suspicious and paranoid that his apartment is infested with ticks and there is feces coming out of the faucets. He believes that people are invading his home and stealing from him. He becomes increasingly angry and violent, leading to physical assault of family members. He has extremely poor insight into his illness and is noncompliant with treatment, leading to multiple hospitalizations."

After consultation with William C. and his sister, Dr. Chatterjee recommended a treatment plan to serve his best interests, which included him living at a 24-hour supervised community residence, participation in socialization groups, psychiatric aftercare treatment, and care coordination by the Case Management Evaluation Referral and Assessment Unit of the Suffolk County Mental Hygiene Services. Additionally, the treatment plan recommended the appointment of the Federation of Organizations*fn2 to provide money management services on behalf of William C.

On July 25, 2007, the Supreme Court conducted a hearing on the petition, in which Dr. Chatterjee testified as to his evaluation and diagnosis of William C., his psychiatric and noncompliance history, his extensive medication requirements (including antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, anti-Parkinson drugs and beta blockers), and his need for an AOT order. Dr. Chatterjee maintained that William C. was unlikely to voluntarily participate in the recommended AOT plan, which would greatly benefit him and prevent a relapse, and that money management services were required, given that William C. was unable or unwilling to pay his doctor bills and other bills, thereby resulting in his failure to receive medication and qualify for Medicaid. Dr. Chatterjee believed that the treatment plan was the least restrictive alternative available for William C.

According to a report by Lillian Graziano, LMSW, Intensive Case Manager, William C. "was always very responsible about paying the bills that, he saw' as important to pay," but if he believed that it was something that he was not supposed to pay, including rent, "he absolutely would not pay it." In fact, Ms. Graziano confirmed that the patient refused to pay the 20% Medicaid spend-down required by doctors' and clinics' bills for services rendered, so that he no longer received Medicaid but only Medicare.

Following the hearing, by order and judgment dated July 25, 2007, the Supreme Court, inter alia, determined that William C. met the criteria for an AOT order as set forth in Mental Hygiene Law § 9.60, and directed that he receive the AOT for a period of six months, including the money management services. The Supreme Court found that the evidence clearly indicated the need for such service, and that unless William C. participated in the AOT program, his welfare and ability to survive in the community would be jeopardized. This appeal ensued, limited to the propriety of the provision regarding money management.

William C. requested a rehearing and review of the proceedings pursuant to Mental Hygiene Law § 9.60(m), which provides for a de novo re-hearing and review of the AOT order and judgment by another Supreme Court Justice pursuant to Mental Hygiene Law § 9.35 (see Matter of Cohen v Anne C., 301 AD2d 446, 448). By order dated October 30, 2007, the Supreme Court denied William C.'s ...


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