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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    annette montgomery

    August 5, 2019 at 12:53 AM

    how do i start the process in TN to get my husband help with his addiction ? My sister in law told me about Casey’s Law but that is not recognized here.

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      Josie Feliz

      August 5, 2019 at 10:28 AM

      Thanks for your message Annette. 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:
      Thank you. -The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids

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    Debra jackson

    June 17, 2019 at 3:06 AM

    I think any addict ia a danger to themselves every time they stick a needle in their arm to get high and that should be enough reason for our state or county officials to step in and help us parents get our children help…all our children are imp to us regardless if they are under 18 or over 30 the value of life shouldn’t be depending on age just because my son/daughter is over 18 does not mean they cant be forced into treatment and stay..i understand funds and resources are limited i cant help but believe if our courts step in and get these adficts the help they are needing that our jails in nc would not be as overcrowded…some times i feel as tho our goverment uses losing these lives as a form of population control!! Sounds crazy sure..but these addicts overdosing on heroin alone at the rate it is now is killing off hundreds of people steadily and consistantly and if not found dead…most are being incarcerated and costing the government more money …its insane that our goverment has not stepped in to help curb this epedemic..

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    Leslie Kandl

    June 4, 2019 at 6:01 AM

    Is Florida a state where you can have someone involuntary committed for serious drug use?

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      June 4, 2019 at 2:39 PM

      Hi Leslie,
      Florida has laws under the Marchman and Baker Acts that provide for an involuntary commitment if the criteria are met – being a danger to self or others. Typically, a family member or interested person may fill out the petition and affidavit in the Clerk’s Office, which will then be reviewed by the court. If the court believes, based on the evidence provided, the judge will enter an order for the sheriff to pick up and transport the person to the nearest receiving facility.

      It’s important to note there are significant concerns about how risky involuntary commitments are in terms of recovery. Many people who are involuntarily committed for 72 hours run a high risk of overdose upon release. This suggests that the voluntary approach using carrots or leverage is the better option if at all possible.

      Please feel free to contact our helpline at 855-DRUGFREE if you’d like to discuss effective ways to suggest treatment. It’s a free service and our specialists would welcome the opportunity to help.

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    Sami McGarry

    March 15, 2019 at 10:10 PM

    I need information on involuntary commitment laws specifically for substance use disorder in Pennsylvania.

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