Involuntary Drug Treatment Laws: Are They Worth It?

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The Marchman Act, also known as the Hal S. Marchman Alcohol and Other Drug Services Act, is a law that was passed in 1993 in Florida. It was passed as a way to provide emergency assistance to individuals in need of substance use evaluation and treatment. The act caters to individuals who cannot make rational decisions about their care due to substance use.

While the Marchman Act is specific to Florida, other states have created laws that are similar. For example, here in California, the CA Welf & Inst Code § 5201 allows family members, doctors and guardians to apply for involuntary treatment. Other states with laws that overlap the Marchman Act are Kentucky and Ohio (Casey’s Law), New York (Kendra’s Law) and Washington (Ricky’s Law).

Let’s learn more about the Marchman Act, how it works and the benefits and considerations to be aware of.

What is the Marchman Act, Exactly?

Under the Marchman Act, individuals can be involuntarily assessed and treated if they are deemed to be a danger to themselves or others. However, there are special criteria that a person must meet in order to receive involuntary treatment.

Typically, the person needs to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol and at risk of harming themselves or others. Additionally, only a spouse or blood relative can file a petition. If the individual doesn’t have a family, a petition can be filed from three people who have direct knowledge of the person’s substance use.

How Does the Marchman Act Work?

Before utilizing the Marchman Act, it’s strongly encouraged to get your loved one into treatment voluntarily. A lot of times, this can be accomplished through an intervention. However, it can be difficult to rationalize with someone who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. But, if you can make this work, you can get your loved one into treatment faster and with no petition.

If your loved one refuses treatment and is a danger to themselves or others, you can petition the court to exercise the Marchman Act. You will need to contact a treatment facility in your area and make sure that a bed is available. Then you will need to fill out the applicable forms, which will ask questions like:

  • Who is the person that needs involuntary treatment?
  • Where can the person be found?
  • Which facility will provide care?
  • When will the bed be ready?
  • Does your loved one have any medical conditions?
  • What medications does your loved one take?

Once the petition is filed, the hearing will be held in 10 days. If the judge agrees to the petition, law enforcement will serve the person and try to get them to go to treatment. If they don’t agree, law enforcement will take them against their will.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Involuntary Treatment

The obvious benefit to the Marchman Act and other similar laws is that you can access treatment for your loved one. This protects them and the public from unnecessary harm. Plus, research shows that people who are involuntarily sent to rehab can do just as well as people who are there voluntarily.

If your loved one doesn’t have health insurance or the means to pay for rehab, the Marchman Act may also be able to get them into state-funded treatment. Furthermore, the Marchman Act takes the burden off family members and places it on law enforcement.

However, there are some drawbacks to the Marchman Act. First, it can take up to 10 days to complete the process, which may be too long for some individuals. And, if the person doesn’t have a valid address or leaves the county the order is filed in, the act is no longer enforceable.

There is also the potential that you could go through all this work and the judge won’t agree, or your loved one won’t be placed in a lock down unit. Some individuals also do not respond well to getting law enforcement involved, which can lead to resentment and turmoil.

Seeking Help in a Way that Works for You and Your Family

Here at Spearhead Health, we support individuals and families who are experiencing behavioral health challenges, including substance use. We provide highly tailored services that meet each client’s unique needs, which can be especially beneficial when getting a person into treatment. We can remove barriers, ease concerns and pave a new way to healing. To learn more about our services, contact us today at 310-561-1704.