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Bipolar News

September 13, 2005

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The Palm Beach Post; 9/9/2005; JIM ASH, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

STUART -- The voices in Jennifer Cisowski's head told her to slam her infant son onto a stone patio and throw his body down a flight of stairs. She obeyed.

On Thursday, Circuit Judge Larry Schack took a chance that Cisowski will obey the house rules at a residential treatment center in West Palm Beach, agreeing to release her from a state mental hospital in Pembroke Pines.

It could be the last stop before freedom for the 25-year-old Connecticut woman, a process that began in 2002 when she was acquitted of murder by reason of insanity.

Cisowski and her boyfriend were visiting his father's Palm City home when the incident occurred the year before.

At the time, Cisowski said the voices in her head told her to test her faith in God by killing 8-month-old Gideon. They promised he would rise again, Cisowski told investigators. State and defense mental health experts agreed she was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and she was acquitted by reason of insanity.

Earlier this year, state and defense experts said Cisowski had improved enough to leave the state facility.

"All of the medical experts that reviewed the case agreed," Cisowski's attorney, Benjamine Reid, said Thursday. "She's been moving gradually from one level to the next."

Assistant State Attorney Nita Denton objected at a hearing last week, but she also acknowledged under questioning from Schack that there was little she could do under Florida law.

Doctors warned that there is no way to predict human behavior.

"One of the psychiatrists said there was no guarantees, and that's where my concern lies," Denton said Thursday.

Schack's order grants her release from the state mental hospital to the Oakwood Center of the Palm Beaches and its Phoenix II residential program. An Oakwood administrator described Phoenix II as a collection of small cottages in West Palm Beach. Treatment programs are tailored to a patient's individual needs, but the administrator said privacy laws prevented her from discussing patients.

The doors at Phoenix II are not locked, but center staff monitor patients seven days a week, 24-hours a day. It is not known how long Cisowski will remain at the center.

Oakwood treats a variety of mental health problems, from drug and alcohol abuse to people with serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Schack left open the possibility of Cisowski returning to a state facility if her condition deteriorates. He ordered her to meet with the center's psychotherapist once a week for the first two months, follow all center rules and either find a job, go to school or do charitable work or "other meaningful activities" five days a week.

Schack also forbade her from drinking alcohol or taking illegal drugs and ordered her to take frequent drug tests.

Cisowski must obey a 9 p.m. curfew Monday through Friday and an 11 p.m. curfew on weekends for the first 90 days. After the first 90 days, Oakwood is supposed to send a report back to the judge on her condition.

In previous court papers, Cisowski's attorneys said the next open space at Phoenix II is available Monday. The papers also said that Cisowski is not taking psychotropic medication and has actively participated in group and individual therapy in the state facility.

"She does not evidence any psychotic thought processes or perceptual distortions," her attorneys wrote.

Copyright Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc., 2005

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