Wisconsin Civil Commitment Process Complicated

By: Britni McDonald
By: Britni McDonald

Posted Monday, May 6, 2013 --- 6:15 p.m.

Parents of the suspect in a triple murder say they wanted their son committed before the crime happened, but the civil commitment process is complicated.

Jaren Kuester faces three charges of first degree intentional homicide in the crime.

His parents say they warned authorities that their son was potentially dangerous, but mental health professionals chose not to hold him.

Under state law, there are specific requirements that determine whether someone can be committed; the outcome in court can vary; and being detained isn't always long term.

Dane County's leading civil commitment attorney says it comes down to several factors all defined under the law: someone who has recent acts of dangerous behavior, an abnormal mental condition, and is a proper subject for treatment.

That behavior needs to be immediately reported to a local mental health center or police.

The person can be immediately detained and then examined by experts, but from there it's in legal hands.

It's a quick process but with a variety of outcomes: commitment for treatment, being handed over to a guardian, or released.

If they are committed, it's often short term.

When we're talking about hospitalizing and committing someone, people think for weeks or months, but we talk more in terms of days," said Dane County's lead civil commitments attorney, Galen Strebe.

He says awareness and first response is key to getting necessary help and sometimes avoiding dangerous situations.

"People getting early and consistent intervention for treatment is the best," said Strebe.

The first thing you should do if you think someone is mentally ill is to contact Journey Mental Health.

If you feel you're in immediate danger, contact police.

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