On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Camden County, CASC-1738-04 (A-2770-04T2); Gloucester County, GLSC-492-04 (A-3221-04T5).
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Grall, J.A.D.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Stern, Grall and Miniman.
M.C. appeals from an order of January 4, 2005, placing her on continued extension pending placement (CEPP) after a review hearing on her initial commitment. She was released on January 19, 2005, to return to the home she shares with her husband.
C.H. appeals from an order of January 19, 2005, placing him on CEPP at the conclusion of an initial hearing on his civil commitment. He was released later the same day to his parents' home.
M.C. and C.H. both contend that the judge erred in extending their commitments pending placement. We heard argument in both cases on February 4, 2005, and now consolidate the appeals.
The cases demonstrate that there is a need to address the legal standards that govern a judge's discretion to extend a patient's commitment pending placement pursuant to R. 4:74-7(h)(2). Although the state argues that the appeals are moot, it is proper to address the claims, regardless of potential consequences; the important issues raised are likely to arise again in cases that will be mooted before appeal. In re Commitment of N.N., 146 N.J. 112, 124 (1996); see In re Commitment of P.D., 381 N.J. Super. 389, 391 (App. Div. 2005), certif. granted and remanded, ___ N.J. ___ (2006).
The following is a summary of the evidence and the judge's findings and conclusions with regard to C.H. He was temporarily committed to the Camden County Health Services Psychiatric Center from a screening center on December 31, 2004. Consistent with the requirements of N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.12a, a hearing on the question whether C.H. was a person in need of civil commitment was scheduled for January 19, 2005. C.H. was thirty-two years of age at the time of the hearing. He had lived with his parents all of his life.
The state did not present any evidence about C.H.'s mental illness or the circumstances that led to his temporary commitment. Dr. Wayslow, C.H.'s attending psychiatrist, was of the opinion that he did not currently present a danger to self, others or property by reason of mental illness. Nonetheless, he recommended CEPP subject to "appropriate placement" and conditioned upon his taking prescribed medication, attending monitoring appointments and participating in an outpatient program for mentally ill chemical abusers and a partial care program. C.H. consented to the conditions other than CEPP and requested immediate discharge to his parents' home.
C.H.'s mother, who attended the hearing, advised the judge that her son could return home on a temporary but not a permanent basis, for a period of "no more than three months."
C.H. explained that he had applied for housing through the local Mental Health Center and understood that the Center would find him an apartment or a room in Gloucester County, preferably one room. His mother explained that the placement "was supposed to be more in a group home that would be supervised" and that there would be "programs, someone to help him find a job, . . . a day-care program, if necessary, but not living in an apartment on his own . . . ." C.H. explained that pending an arrangement through the center, he planned to reside with his parents.
In Dr. Wayslow's opinion, the residence of C.H.'s parents was an "appropriate placement." The judge asked Dr. Wayslow if it would also be "appropriate for C.H. to reside in an apartment by himself." Dr. Wayslow said he had not considered C.H.'s living in an apartment and would want to know more about it before deeming it appropriate. He did not articulate his concerns.
I'm willing to order and I'm going to order CEPP. I'm not going to order discharge with conditions today. I'm not satisfied there is an appropriate placement for the next ninety days right this minute. . . . We're going to review the matter in two weeks, and hopefully in two weeks we're going to be able to investigate this and come up with a final placement solution.
When the state's attorney asked whether the judge wanted additional testimony about placement, he said he did not. He explained that the doctor had not considered the question and could testify about it in two weeks, unless C.H. was discharged in ...