FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT THIRTEENTH DIVISION
[NO. 60PR-18-1504], HONORABLE W. MICHAEL REIF, JUDGE
R. Simpson, Jr., Public Defender, by: Andrew Thornton, Deputy
Public Defender, for appellant.
K. Howard, Jonesboro, Ark. Dept of Human Services, Office of
Chief Counsel, for appellee.
GRUBER, Chief Judge
appeals from an order of the Pulaski County Circuit Court
placing her in the long-term custody of the Arkansas
Department of Human Services (DHS) under the Arkansas Adult
Maltreatment Custody Act. She argues that the circuit courts
decision must be reversed because an adult may not be placed
in DHS custody if he or she needs acute psychiatric or
chronic mental-health treatment. We reject her argument and
affirm the circuit courts decision.
events precipitating the circuit courts order began in
mid-June 2018 when one of O.C.s neighbors contacted law
enforcement for a welfare check. The officers observed that
the kitchen faucet was broken, the drains were clogged, and
the home was extremely hot and without air conditioning.
Although O.C. appeared unaware that she did not own the home
when officers conducted the welfare check, O.C.s home had
been sold for nonpayment of taxes, and the new owner had cut
off all utilities to the home. Law enforcement also observed
O.C. acting paranoid: making comments that people were
listening to her in her home, that someone was planting
poison ivy in her yard, and that someone would not turn off
enforcement contacted DHS, and a caseworker visited O.C. on
June 22. O.C. would not allow the caseworker inside her home.
After attempting to execute an eviction notice on July 10,
law enforcement again contacted DHS and expressed concern
that O.C., who was sixty-eight years old, was impaired and in
no shape to be inside the home. On July 20, DHS filed a
Petition for Order of Investigation, which the circuit court
granted, and DHS and law enforcement went to O.C.s home on
July 30. She was taken to Baptist Hospital for evaluation
because of her confused mental status. While at Baptist, O.C.
was seen having a conversation with an air conditioner and
was initially given a diagnosis of dementia or an infection,
but Baptist told DHS that it could not do further testing
without proper authorization and would be discharging O.C. to
August 2, DHS took a seventy-two-hour hold on O.C. and
transferred her to Unity Health Hospital in Searcy for
further evaluation and possible treatment. DHS filed a
petition for emergency custody pursuant to Arkansas Code
Annotated sections 9-20-101 (Repl. 2015 & Supp. 2017) et
seq., the Arkansas Adult Maltreatment Custody Act (the Act or
AMCA), which the circuit court granted. The order authorized
temporary custody and further medical and psychological
evaluations. The circuit court held a probable-cause hearing
on August 10 and found that probable cause continued to exist
to allow O.C. to remain in DHS custody.
August 20, the circuit court began a long-term-custody
hearing. Dr. Andrew Powell, O.C.s treating psychiatrist at
Unity Health Hospital, testified that he had diagnosed O.C.
with bipolar disorder with psychotic features. He said that
she would probably need medication for the rest of her life,
although she had refused to take any medication at the time
of the hearing. He said that he would not discharge her with
a prescription for therapy but that generally someone with
her diagnosis would make an appointment with a psychiatrist
at an outpatient clinic. The treating psychiatrist would then
determine with the patient whether individual or group
therapy was appropriate in addition to medication. Dr. Powell
did not recommend institutional care but did recommend
twenty-four-hour supervision and assistance to make sure she
was safe, had good nutrition, and took her medicine. He did
not think that O.C. had the mental capacity to protect
herself from abuse, neglect, or exploitation and opined that
she should remain in DHS custody. Dr. Powell also testified
that he and the hospital staff were continuing to evaluate
whether O.C. also had dementia.
court-appointed attorney argued at the hearing that O.C.
should not be placed in DHS custody under the AMCA because it
does not allow DHS to take custody of persons in need of
"acute psychiatric treatment" or "chronic
mental health treatment." The court declined to make a
final determination and ordered O.C. to remain in DHS custody
while DHS gathered all evaluations concerning her condition
and available potential services.
September 13, the court resumed the long-term-custody hearing
and admitted Dr. Powells affidavit dated September 12. In
the affidavit, Dr. Powell opined ...