Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Alabama woman's sister able to commit her to psychiatric facility even though she isn't mentally ill

From the intro to a story in The Montgomery Advertiser in Alabama. In the picture, B.J. Hutter sits with her parents, Bob and Vera Pike, at their home.

It was a year ago Dec. 29 when deputy sheriffs came to B.J. Hutter's home and put her in a white van. She soon found herself shackled and confined in a mental institution -- not because she was insane, but because of what Hutter said was sibling rivalry.

Although Hutter was quickly diagnosed as being sane, her release did not come as quickly as the diagnosis because necessary procedures had to be followed.

Hutter was confined for about a week in a mental institution until the courts could officially release her. That was far faster than it may have occurred in the past, but it still seemed like an eternity to Hutter.

Adding insult to injury, Hutter said she later discovered she had to pay the tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills for her own involuntary and unnecessary commitment.

On that day one year ago, Hutter had only been worrying about the visit she was about to make to her orthopedic surgeon for treatment of a broken ankle. That changed when several deputy sheriffs arrived at her house with orders from the Probate Court.

A handful of law enforcement vehicles surrounded the front of her Montgomery home, with officers surrounding the house itself, she said. In the driveway, the white van was backed up, ready for Hutter's transfer.

And within eyesight was her younger sister Vicki Pike, who Hutter later learned had signed the petition to have her involuntarily committed. After they had argued, her sister had filed papers saying Hutter was both suicidal and homicidal.

As authorities walked Hutter from her house, she shuffled on her crutches. She remembers how embarrassed she was when she saw her neighbors watching her as a group of deputy sheriffs escorted her to the van. She didn't know at that time who had signed the papers.

There was embarrassment, and there was shock.

She realized that this was serious, that she was being involuntarily committed to a mental institution.

"The severity of this hit me so hard, that for a moment in time, I felt completely removed from my body," the 59-year-old Hutter said.