FROM THE WASHINGTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 72PR-17-212]
HONORABLE DOUG MARTIN, JUDGE
Standridge, for appellant.
Goff, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.
Stegall appeals the April 13, 2017 order of the Washington
County Circuit Court ordering her into long-term protective
custody of the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS).
On appeal, Stegall argues that (1) probable cause did not
exist to place her in the long-term custody of DHS and (2)
the institutional care she was receiving was not the
least-restrictive environment to meet her needs. We affirm.
March 2, 2017, DHS filed a petition for emergency custody,
alleging that Stegall is an endangered or impaired adult
pursuant to the Adult Maltreatment Custody Act. DHS had
received a referral that Stegall's heat and electricity
were turned off, she had lost her medications, forgot to eat
and was losing weight, and had a history of alcohol abuse.
The affidavit included with the petition for emergency
custody further alleged that an investigator for adult
protective services made three visits to Stegall's home
in mid-February and administered two mini mental-status
exams. Stegall scored a 26/30 both times. A
seventy-two-hour hold was placed on Stegall for cognitive
assessment. An ex parte order for emergency custody was
entered that same day.
probable-cause hearing was held on March 7, 2017. At the
hearing, DHS offered an affidavit of Stephen Dollins, a
board-certified psychiatrist, who had evaluated Stegall five
days prior. In his affidavit, he provided that Stegall
"has major vascular neurocognitive disorder, moderate to
severe stage, and that the least restrictive environment is
assisted living with a dementia unit or nursing home
care-needs 24 hour care." DHS also introduced a
neuropsychological evaluation by another doctor, Dr.
Chambers, which provided that Stegall required "24/7
assistance." Stegall's daughter testified that she
was working on getting her mother into an assisted-living
facility closer to her in Missouri.
trial court found that the DHS worker was very credible, and
it gave significant weight to the affidavit and exhibit of
the two doctors who both diagnosed Stegall with dementia and
recommended around-the-clock care. It found that probable
cause existed to continue placement with DHS and ordered DHS
to place Stegall at "an appropriate facility that meets
[her] needs" and to provide her with "physical,
mental or emotional care as required in the opinion of a duly
authorized or licensed physician."
long-term-care hearing was held on April 13, 2017. The
testimony at the second hearing was mostly duplicative of the
first. The DHS investigator testified that a third doctor,
Dr. Miller, evaluated Stegall and also recommended "24/7
nursing care in a long- term care facility." He
testified that Dr. Miller also diagnosed Stegall with
"major vascular neurocognitive disorder and behavioral
also testified. She said that she would like to either go
home or be let out to go live in an assisted-living facility
nearer to her daughter. She testified that she would like
some crochet supplies and that if DHS was planning on taking
her into custody that it spend its own money to do it, and
not hers. She said that she thought she was stable and
capable of taking care of herself. She recognized that she
may need some assistance in the future, but she said that,
for right now, she was fine. She said that she was looking
forward to her son getting out of jail in June and that he
could come live with her when he got out. She testified that
she could not remember why he was in jail.
conclusion of the hearing, the trial court found probable
cause existed to grant long-term custody of Stegall to DHS.
This appeal follows.
standard of review for probate matters is de novo, and this
court will not reverse the trial court's findings unless
they are clearly erroneous, giving due regard to the
opportunity and superior position of the probate court to
determine the credibility of witnesses. Howard v. Ark.
Dep't of Human Servs., 2017 Ark.App. 68, at 4, 512
S.W.3d 676, 679. A finding is clearly erroneous when,
although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court
on the entire evidence is left with the definite and firm
conviction that a mistake has been made. Id. at 5,
512 S.W.3d at 679.
purpose of the Adult Maltreatment Custody Act is to (1)
protect a maltreated adult or long-term-care facility
resident who is in imminent danger; and (2) encourage the
cooperation of state agencies and private providers in the
service-delivery system for maltreated adults. See
Ark. Code Ann. § 9-20-102 (2017); Howard, 2017
Ark.App. 68, at 5, 512 S.W.3d at 679-80. The Act gives
jurisdiction to the probate division of the circuit court
over proceedings for custody, temporary custody for purposes
of evaluation, court-ordered protective services, or an order
of investigation pursuant to the Act. See Ark. Code
Ann. § 9-20-108(a)(1); Howard, 2017 Ark.App.
68, at 5, 512 S.W.3d at 680.
probate court may order long-term custody with DHS if the
court determines that (1) the adult has a mental impairment,
a physical impairment, or lacks the capacity to comprehend
the nature and consequences of remaining in a situation that
presents an imminent danger to her health or safety; (2) she
is unable to provide for her own protection from
maltreatment; and (3) the court finds clear and convincing
evidence that the adult is in need of placement as provided
in the Act. Ark. Code Ann. § 9-20-117(c);
Howard, 2017 Ark.App. 68, at 5, 512 S.W.3d at 680.
Adult maltreatment, as defined, includes abuse, exploitation,