Many States Allow Involuntary Commitment for Addiction Treatment

Many State Allow Involuntary Committment for Addiction Treatment- Partnership News ServiceAfter receiving a number of calls from parents of young adults who are addicted to drugs, asking whether they can force their child into treatment against their will, the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws (NASMDL) found it is possible to do so in 37 states—if strict guidelines are met.

According to Heather Gray, NAMSDL Senior Legislative Attorney, 37 states and the District of Columbia currently have statutes in place allowing for the involuntary commitment of individuals suffering from substance use disorder, alcoholism, or both.

The bar for proving the need for involuntary commitment is high, Gray notes, adding, “Parents of minors can drive their child to a treatment facility against their will, but once the child turns 18, there’s a lot less they can do.”

In order for a person to be involuntarily committed for addiction treatment, it first has to be proven the person is addicted to drugs or alcohol. Typically, there must also be evidence that the individual has threatened, attempted, or inflicted physical harm on himself or another person, or proof that if the person is not detained, he will inflict physical harm on himself or another person. Or the person must be so incapacitated by drugs or alcohol that he cannot provide for his basic needs, including food, shelter, and clothing, and there is no suitable adult (such as a family member or friend) willing to provide for such needs.

Even if parents are able to get their child involuntarily committed, the severe lack of addiction treatment facilities in many areas means that there is often nowhere to send someone, Gray noted. “If more people knew involuntary commitment was an option, they might put pressure on legislators in their state to make more treatment facilities available, especially given the current climate with [the] opioid epidemic,” she says. “Many people need treatment and aren’t getting it because space isn’t available.”

Many State Allow Involuntary Committment for Addiction Treatment- state map- Partnership News ServiceThe majority of states with involuntary commitment laws for substance use disorders and alcoholism specifically exclude substance use disorders and alcoholism from their legal definition of mental illness or mental disorder. This is likely due to criminal court considerations, with legislators not wanting criminal defendants who committed a crime while under the influence to be able to plead an insanity defense, according to Gray.

In every state with an involuntary commitment law, people sought to be committed have the right to an attorney or, if they cannot afford an attorney, to have the court or other committing agency appoint an attorney to represent them at every stage of the proceedings. Every state also grants people the right to petition for a writ of habeas corpus at any point after they have been committed.  The purpose of a writ of habeas corpus is to have the court determine whether the person’s detention is lawful and, if not, to order the release of the individual.

While many state laws covering involuntary commitment are similar, there are variations in how long a person can be detained before having a hearing, from 48 hours to five days, she noted. In Louisiana, a person can be detained for 15 days before a hearing.

In many states, a person who is involuntarily committed for inpatient treatment is treated for about two weeks. After that, if the facility administrator or the patient’s doctor feels they are sufficiently able to care for themselves outside of the facility, they can be released to outpatient treatment. If they do not comply with outpatient treatment, they can be readmitted to the inpatient facility.

“It used to be that if you were committed involuntarily to an institution, you might be there for a year. Because that violated due process rights, a lot of state laws were modified in the 1960s and 70s so people could not be held for that long,” Gray says. “People have the right to live their lives as they choose, so there has to be a compelling reason to commit them involuntarily.”

29 Responses

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    Carmella Green

    February 9, 2019 at 12:45 PM

    My son is in involuntary committment in Asheville N.C. He was taken to a detox facility an hour away fro. Where we live..He is now very angry because when he walked out and we didnt come back to get him he went to hospital nearby and is involuntRily committed which is where he needs to be but what should i do now?

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      Josie Feliz

      February 11, 2019 at 11:13 AM

      Thanks for your message Carmella. We have forwarded your message to one of our helpline specialists who can help better answer your question, and she will be reaching out to you shortly. Our Helpline is a good place to start if you’d like to talk to someone about what you’re going through. Feel free to connect with us in whichever manner you choose in the future: https://drugfree.org/helpline
      Thank you. -The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids

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    Ruth madison

    January 28, 2019 at 9:09 AM

    My brother just died under a stay of commitment in a long term care facility 3 hours from home where he was being bullied relentlessly and having his things stolen so he said. Upon retrieving his things to my dismay his t.v. phone, brand new clothes and clock and cigarettes and all his toilettaries indeed have been stolen. The staff there think they know what happened to his t.v. and want descriptions of the clothes ect.. my brother was 6 years sober and doing great when he started hearing voices and lost his job started drinking and spent the last two years in either mental wards or treatment and then this. My concern is that the bullying and terrible treatment by other committed folks in this treatment center didn’t help him focus on any if his issues. He was just living there. In a sober environment. Not in treatment and the staff didn’t do anything to stop the theft or bullying. He died of a heart attack and the dorm he was in was 500 ft or more away from the building housing the c.d. tech’s and nurse practitioner who the day before misdiagnosed him with pneumonia and treated him for that. He was feeling sick for days before he died. And the one who reported his collapse was one of his abusers. I’m stunned by the sheer lack of respect for me wanting answers and the guilt I feel for not knowing what went on. I don’t think one day of him being ordered there was good or helpful for my brother or if he got out would he feel well and not drink. He was a high anxiety. Had brain injury due to last binge and had schizophrenia just diagnosed and was being bullied having all his things stolen. He even bought a lock to lock up his stuff of which was smashed off the next day. He was afraid. How can any of this be overlooked and I be left knowing it. Man…its relentless. And even if it was a natural death these things are true. And what affect does it have on this type individual to be bullied beyond what should ever happen and staff saying they didn’t know. They knew. They went to the abuser who denied it. And who said they were trying to help him they cared about him. Why is another patient helping him and caring for him? And the state of Minnesota put him there? I’m so stunned and my brother is gone. Died a horrible death alone in a place he couldn’t leave. It’s torturous to know this. Gid..im so hurt and angry.

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      Pat

      February 4, 2019 at 4:56 PM

      Hi Ruth,
      I’m so sorry to hear about the death of your brother and the bullying he was exposed to. I hope you find the answers you’re searching for.
      Pat

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    Shelly Connar

    January 27, 2019 at 11:03 AM

    How do you get someone to go to rehab that doesn’t what to go? The person I’m speaking of is 22. She recently hit rock bottom in my opinion and I feel she will be headed right back to a situation that almost got her killed. She was kicked out of her moms because of drug use and was on the streets for a short time until she was rescued(not). She lost her daughter. My mom is raising her. She spent the past couple months in an abusive relationship where she was taken and left to have sex to get drugs. Possibly beat, raped, and kept high each time. This past week her so called boyfriend and her got in a fight. He beat her and drug her around the house and yard before aiming a gun at her and pulling the trigger hitting her in the head one time and trigger jammed the 2nd and 3rd time. She survived and has already been released. While at hospital she found out she is 8 weeks pregnant. Today she insisted on leaving where she was staying and has no where she can really go again. What can be done?

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      Josie Feliz

      January 28, 2019 at 2:26 PM

      Thanks for your message Shelly. We have forwarded your message to one of our helpline specialists who can help better answer your question, and she will be reaching out to you shortly. Our Helpline is a good place to start if you’d like to talk to someone about what you’re going through. Feel free to connect with us in whichever manner you choose in the future: https://drugfree.org/helpline
      Thank you. -The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids

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    Rocco

    January 27, 2019 at 12:34 AM

    Do you think it’s better to push a 19 y/o man to the streets so that he is broken and realizes what the drugs are doing to him. It’s tough love and I can’t subscribe to it. I’m being called an enabler but I am trying to keep him alive. My mind can only think the worst about what he might do to get $ for drugs.

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      Josie Feliz

      January 28, 2019 at 2:30 PM

      Thanks for your message Rocco. We have forwarded your message to one of our helpline specialists who can help better answer your question, and she will be reaching out to you shortly. Our Helpline is a good place to start if you’d like to talk to someone about what you’re going through. Feel free to connect with us in whichever manner you choose in the future: https://drugfree.org/helpline
      Thank you. -The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids

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      Pat

      February 4, 2019 at 5:03 PM

      Hi Rocco,
      There seems to be this prevailing opinion that someone needs to be broken and have a pile of consequences before they can be helped. There is no science to back this up. It would be akin to waiting for someone to have stage 4 cancer before considering treatment.

      I think you are asking the right question – is someone who is pushed to the streets likely to do well or have worse things happen.

      As for encouraging treatment, it helps to find out what he might consider. Would he be willing to go for an evaluation or consider anticraving medications? Feel free to reach out to one of our helpline specialists to formulate a plan. There is no cost for the service and they can guide you as to how to help without asking him to leave.

      Wishing you well,
      Pat

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