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In re Reid K.

Supreme Court of Alaska

September 25, 2015

In the Matter of the Necessity for the Hospitalization of REID K

Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Fourth Judicial District, Fairbanks, Paul R. Lyle, Judge. Superior Court No. 4FA-13-00446 PR.

Rachel Cella, Assistant Public Defender, and Quinlan Steiner, Public Defender, Anchorage, for Appellant.

Reid K. Janell M. Hafner, Assistant Attorney General, and Michael C. Geraghty, Attorney General, Juneau, for Appellee State of Alaska.

Before: Fabe, Chief Justice, Winfree, Stowers, Maassen, and Bolger, Justices.

OPINION

Page 777

FABE, Chief Justice.

I. INTRODUCTION

In August 2013 the superior court entered a 30-day involuntary civil commitment order for Reid K.[1] After holding a contested evidentiary hearing, the superior court found that Reid was likely to harm others and that no less restrictive alternative existed to prevent potential harm. Reid appeals that 30-day commitment. Shortly after Reid's 30-day commitment, Reid's doctors petitioned for a 90-day commitment. At the trial on the requested 90-day commitment, Reid stipulated that he was mentally ill and, as a result, was likely to cause harm to himself or others. Reid's 30-day commitment order thus does not have collateral consequences in light of his subsequent 90-day commitment based on his stipulation. Moreover the public interest exception to the mootness doctrine does not apply. Reid's appeal is therefore dismissed as moot.

II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

Reid K., age 26, was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at age 16. He experiences delusions and severe command auditory hallucinations in the form of seven different voices that often instruct him to harm and kill other people, including members of his family and his home village. Reid has been prescribed antipsychotic medication since age 16 to help control his hallucinations and manage his illness, but he has repeatedly stopped taking his medications as prescribed. When Reid stops taking his prescribed medications or smokes large quantities of marijuana, which he does regularly, the voices increase in intensity and his hallucinations get worse.

Reid has previously acted on his hallucinations by taking steps toward homicidal acts. In 2012, in response to voices in his head, Reid attempted to kill his brother with a sword. Reid was hospitalized in November 2012 and again prescribed psychiatric medication, though it is unclear whether that hospitalization required an involuntary commitment. Following Reid's discharge from the hospital, Reid met telephonically with his outpatient psychiatrist, Dr. Joshua Sonkiss, who was responsible for overseeing Reid's medication regimen.

Reid stopped taking his medication soon after his release from the hospital in 2012. He testified that he stopped taking his medication because he wanted to see " how far [he] would go before anything could happen." Reid missed between ten and twenty percent of his outpatient appointments with Dr. Sonkiss and did not disclose to Dr. Sonkiss that he had stopped taking his medication as prescribed. Reid heard voices telling him to kill people for up to seven of the eight months after being off his medications.

Reid's treatment plan required that he abstain from alcohol and marijuana because his doctors believed those substances would exacerbate Reid's disorder and make his psychosis worse. But Reid regularly used marijuana as a " stress reliever." At one point Reid told Dr. Sonkiss that he had smoked

Page 778

marijuana 22 out of the past 30 days in addition to using " lots of other substances."

By August 2013 Reid's command auditory hallucinations had intensified and were telling him to carry out a mass murder, beginning with his family and continuing to each of the 400 residents of his village. In response to these hallucinations, Reid obtained a 7-millimeter firearm that he planned to use to kill residents at an upcoming village gathering. But when Reid went to buy ammunition, he discovered that the store did not have the correct type of bullets in stock. A few days later, Reid began having what he characterized as momentary " conscience," and he reported his homicidal plans to Dr. Sonkiss, admitting that his symptoms had gotten " out of control."

On August 16, 2013, Reid was voluntarily admitted for treatment at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital. After his first week of hospitalization, Reid thought he no longer needed inpatient treatment because he had come to realize that the voices were telling him to do a " bad thing" and that his family was prepared to help him. His inpatient treating psychiatrist, Dr. Monique Dase, filed a petition for involuntary commitment for evaluation on ...


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