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.”

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    Penny richards

    November 26, 2019 at 2:51 PM

    I also have a beautiful daughter sher choice is meth I want to help her before I burie her she 31 homeless no job no desire to get one walks the street has 2 beautiful kids who we try n to raise been in and out of there life for 3 years is there anything I can do she will tell us yea she on drugs don’t want to stop them

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      Josie Feliz

      December 1, 2019 at 12:34 PM

      Thanks for your message Penny. 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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    Frank Vickers

    November 4, 2019 at 11:24 AM

    I was wondering if there is involuntary commitment laws in Kentucky. We feel that he is in danger to us and himself and his two beautiful children. He is admitted to taking the drugs he’s trying to kill himself so that he doesn’t hurt us anymore.

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      Josie Feliz

      November 4, 2019 at 3:09 PM

      Thanks for your message Frank. 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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