In the Matter of A.L.B., __ N.C.App. __ (October 6, 2020)

Vacated and Remanded
There is a dissent.
  • Facts: The juvenile, who was in DSS custody after being surrendered to DSS custody by her mother, had a history of stealing vehicles and running away from placements. She had been in three Level Two therapeutic foster homes and two Level Three group homes. The matter came to disposition on May 20, 2019 following admission to possession of a stolen vehicle and probation violations. The Care Coordinator Supervisor for Partners Behavioral Health Management, the local managed care organization (MCO) testified that the most recent clinical assessment was from March of 2018 and was too old to inform a current placement recommendation. The March 2018 assessment included several diagnoses, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depressive disorder, and unspecified disruptive, impulse-control, and conduct disorder. The MCO representative also testified that the most recent recommendation from the juvenile’s clinical provider was for a Level Five PRTF placement, but that Partners did not have this most recent clinical assessment. The juvenile requested a Level Five PRTF placement at disposition. The State and the juvenile court counselor requested commitment to a YDC as the disposition. The trial court ordered the Level 3 commitment to the YDC.


  • Opinion: The trial court committed error in its failure to abide by the mandate in G.S. 7B-2502(c) to refer the juvenile to the area mental health services director for arranging an interdisciplinary evaluation of the juvenile and mobilizing resources to meet the juvenile’s needs prior to disposition. This error caused prejudice to the juvenile because there is a reasonable probability that compliance with the statute and review of the required evaluation would have altered the court’s disposition. The trial court did not have the opportunity to weigh a mental health clinician’s reasoning behind a Level Five PRTF recommendation against the State’s recommendation for YDC commitment. The March 2018 assessment is too old, as mental illness varies over time and “a year is not insignificant in the mental development of an adolescent.” Slip op. at 12. An updated assessment could show a new diagnosis or rationales for specific treatment that could alter the court’s disposition. The disposition order is vacated and the case is remanded for the referral, interdisciplinary evaluation, and mobilization of resources required by the statute.


Disposition Order
Mental Health Referral
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