The matter presently before the court is a petition for the expungement of records of commitment of one D.G. pursuant to N.J.S.A. 30:4-80.8 et seq. The statute provides that:
Any person who has been, or shall be, committed by order of any court or by voluntary commitment, to any institution or facility providing mental health services and who was, or shall be, discharged from such institution or facility as recovered may apply to the court by which such commitment was made by verified petition setting forth the facts and praying for the relief provided for in this act.
The issue presently before this court concerns the construction to be given this statute, viz., whether a person has been discharged as "improved" may fall within the ambit of the statute, which states that such persons applying to expunge records of commitment be discharged as "recovered."
The facts, for purposes of this hearing, are essentially as follows. Petitioner was born in 1920. He graduated from high school and was drafted into the Air Force, was honorably discharged, is married and has an emancipated son. Upon discharge petitioner secured employment as a machine operator, a job which he held for 18 years until his hospitalization in 1964.
On August 27, 1964, at age 44, petitioner was committed, by court order, to the Essex County Hospital Center in Cedar Grove. His diagnosis upon admission was that of paranoid state. Although petitioner was home on passes for most of the latter part of his hospitalization, he was not officially discharged until April 29, 1970. Petitioner's diagnosis upon discharge was "Paranoid State Improved."
Petitioner's hospital record during this period reveals that he had been brought to the hospital by his wife because of anxiety and fears that he was being poisoned and, although he was initially described as suspicious and distrustful, he did not display systematized delusions. His wife stated at that time that his illness seemed to be an accumulation of things
that had happened throughout the year, but for six weeks prior to the hospitalization his anxiety and ideas of persecution had become acute.
In the few years prior to his hospitalization in 1964 several deaths of close relatives occurred in rapid succession which put a great deal of pressure on him. As petitioner and his wife were close, family-oriented people, these deaths aroused great concern in petitioner, and he began to have notions of his own life being in jeopardy.
Although petitioner did not believe that there was any particular conspiracy or that particular people wanted to harm him, he did feel very strongly that the world was hostile and that there were people who wanted to harm him. These feelings became very real to petitioner, and he was unable to continue working and finally refused to leave the house. It was at this point that petitioner's wife sought help for her husband, which resulted in his commitment to the Essex County Hospital Center.
Upon admission petitioner was started on medication and began to improve. By December of 1964 he was started on home passes and described as being much improved. The following month hospital progress notes stated that his replies were relevant and coherent, and the patient was free of hallucinations. In February 1965 petitioner was described as accessible and friendly, he did not exhibit fear or excessive anxiety, and his replies were relevant and coherent. Progress notes from 1965 until petitioner's discharge in 1970 consist almost entirely of records of his home passes in care of his wife. He was finally officially discharged as "improved" on April 29, 1970. It was further noted at this time that petitioner's illness was in "good remission."
This hospitalization has been petitioner's first and only hospitalization for psychiatric reasons. He had no contacts with the mental health ...