Like most states across the country, Florida is in the midst of an opiate addiction epidemic. According to the Sun Sentinel, in Palm Beach County alone, over 375 people died of an opiate overdose in 2016. This wave of deaths caused by opiate overdoses has many members of the community asking what can be done to stop the destruction caused by addiction. For some loved ones of addicts and alcoholics, getting someone into treatment for addiction seems like the best option. Sometimes an individual resists going to treatment and in order to save their life, their family may rely on the Marchman Act. This law allows for involuntary commitment of someone who has a substance abuse problem.
History of the Marchman Act
The Marchman Act is a Florida state law that was passed in 1993. This law allows for family members or friends to petition the court to commit someone to mandatory treatment for drug or alcohol addiction. The purpose of the law is similar to that of laws that allow for involuntary commitment for mental illness issues.
Once someone reaches the age of 18 and they are legally an adult, they cannot be forced to get medical treatment for anything, unless they are in a state of mind in which they can’t make good decisions and they are a danger to themselves and/or other people. When someone is impaired by mental illness or addiction, they can be a threat to their own lives and may not be capable of making the decision to get help. The Marchman Act was passed so that even adults over the age of 18 can be forced to get treatment if their addiction is threatening their life and they are incapable of seeking help for themselves.
How Does the Marchman Act Work?
Even when someone is suffering from a condition that impairs their judgment, all human beings have rights when it comes to medical treatment. The Marchman Act doesn’t allow for just anyone to confine someone to treatment automatically- there are several steps taken to ensure that someone must be committed to treatment and that there is no other option in order to avoid people being thrown into a facility against their will when it isn’t necessary.
In order to get a Marchman Act petition approved, a husband or wife, a relative, or a group of three people (when the individual is not married and has no relatives) must file the petition. The people who choose to file have to fill out a court-approved package in order to describe the person’s substance abuse problem and demonstrate that their behavior is a direct threat to their life or the life of others. In order to get the Marchman Act petition approved, the people who file must prove that:
- The individual is powerless over their use of drugs and/or alcohol
- The individual is likely to harm themselves or others as the result of their substance use unless they get help
- The individual does not have the capacity to seek help or to understand that they need help
- The individual is unwilling to get help
What Happens When the Marchman Act Petition is Approved?
Once a petition is filed, there is a court hearing to determine whether or not the individual in question should be court-ordered to treatment. If they are, they will be sent for a detox and assessment for 3-5 days. After that, the individual may be court-ordered to a treatment facility for 60 days. Once that period of treatment is over, the mandatory treatment can be extended for another 90 days or the individual can be released, based on what the court decides. Many people decide to continue with treatment or follow the court order because the alternative is jail time.
Pros and Cons of the Marchman Act
On one hand, many people believe that treatment doesn’t work unless the person who seeks treatment decides for themselves that they need help. On the other hand, sometimes addiction is so powerful it strips us of any judgment or power to make rational decisions, and the Marchman Act can save lives when it is used to get treatment for people who are incapable of making that choice themselves. Some people disagree with involuntary commitment, while others see it as the only choice to save a loved one’s life. Either way, using the Marchman Act is always a last resort when all other options have run out.
When someone decides that they need help, they have a good chance of overcoming addiction if they have access to quality treatment that truly addresses the underlying factors that contribute to their drug or alcohol use. At All About Recovery, we strive to treat addiction from every angle to give our patients the best chance at recovery. For information on addiction treatment at All About Recovery, call 888-712-8480 today.