The psychiatrist at Alpine, where Conservatee is a patient, takes the stand. His diagnosis: paranoid schizophrenia. The story, as it emerges, is that Conservatee, 35, some six weeks ago presented herself at Alvarado Parkway Institute’s emergency room. She was, says the psychiatrist, “conversing with astronauts” and “felt that astronauts were in her head and gnawing away at her stomach, that she had worms in her and that there were snot rags lying all around the place.” She was emaciated, “simply not eating and taking any liquid at all. She felt food was poisoned and beverages were poisoned.” Although Conservatee claimed she had been staying in a hotel room, hospital staff insisted she was homeless.
Because Conservatee wishes to be returned to her family in Arkansas, Alpine staff has attempted to locate her relatives there. Says the psychiatrist, “Those people who know her refused to take her in.”
While Conservatee mutters, “No, no,” he goes on. He believes Conservatee has no insight into her condition, and, were she discharged, she would refuse medication. However, shortly after her admission to Alpine, she did begin eating — or as the psychiatrist described, “She became compliant with food and fluid intake very rapidly.” And “she has been participating in the program at Alpine with good attendance.”
PD leads her client through questions designed to show lack of grave disability. Asked where she is residing. Conservatee says, “I was staying back in Arkansas. First I chose California because of surgery that I have, and I have been trying to find someone to help me with my surgery that I have so I can get my job.”
Asked how she would get to Arkansas, Conservatee says, “On the Greyhound bus.” And how much, she’s asked, would it cost to ride the bus home to Arkansas? “A hundred eighty-one dollars. Special is $68.” PD asks about the astronauts. “Did the astronauts ever tell you to do anything wrong or bad?”
“No. They are not bad astronauts.”
“They are good astronauts?”
PD argues against establishment of conservatorship. Conservatee was not homeless — “has, in fact, never been on the street, she stayed in a hotel and with friends.” Conservatee’s weight has stabilized, she now denies feeling food is poisoned, she recognizes she must take her medication.
Although PD pleads her client’s case passionately, it seems clear that Conservatee will not be released. And indeed she’s not. “Delusion in and of itself would not be dispositive of the court’s decision,” says Judge, “but the fact is that when she came into the hospital she was emaciated. While she’s on medication she seems to be doing all right....
“My problem is, I feel that I would be turning out a child without assistance if I were to say she’s okay to go out on her own. We feel she does need service of a public conservator. All disabilities imposed except the right to vote. A closed, locked facility is the least restrictive facility.”
Conservatee, tears running down her cheeks, bolts out the courtroom door.
Before the door closes, she looks across the courtroom and up toward the bench, mutters, “I feel tricked.” The psych tech who brought her to court is right behind her.
Juvenile Dependency and