Can Florida’s Marchman Act Help Your Loved One?Seth Sparks
Conventional wisdom says that a person with a substance use disorder can only become sober if they are willing to change. Managing an addictive disease is incredibly difficult, so this idea makes sense. However, as the U.S. struggles to deal with the toll of the opioid epidemic, public safety advocates, addiction professionals and loved ones of people with substance use disorders consider the potential of compulsory drug treatment in initiating the journey to sobriety.
Compulsory treatment, also called involuntary commitment or involuntary addiction treatment, isn’t just a theory. It is a reality in many states in the U.S., perhaps most notably in Florida. Since 1993, the Marchman Act has given families a legal path to require loved ones to enter treatment. The Marchman Act might even provide a template that the rest of the nation could follow to combat the opioid epidemic.
What is the Marchman Act?
The Hal S. Marchman Alcohol and Other Drug Services Act of 1993 provides a legal path to have someone with substance abuse disorder detained and treated for their addiction. Many different parties can file a petition, including family members, doctors or law enforcement officers. The party filing the petition must be able to show that the person has become impaired by substances, a danger to themselves or others and unable to recognize the need for intervention.
The Process After a Petition is Filed
After a petition is filed with the Clerk of Court, a judge will review it to determine whether the situation requires emergency intervention or whether a subpoena will be adequate. If emergency intervention is needed, a law enforcement officer will pick up the person named in the petition (the respondent) and a hearing date will be set. The respondent can have their own attorney represent them at the hearing. If the respondent is a minor or cannot afford legal representation, a court-appointed attorney will be provided.
The filers of the petition, along with any other relevant parties, will make their case to a judge or magistrate. If the judge or magistrate believes that the respondent needs to be evaluated, an addiction professional will conduct an assessment. If the assessment shows that the respondent should be treated, the judge or magistrate can mandate treatment of 60 days. A treatment facility can later request an extension of more than 90 days or longer if the person requires additional care.
Is Involuntary Addiction Treatment Effective?
Several studies have suggested that involuntary addiction treatment can be as effective as conventional voluntary treatment. Just like so many areas of substance use disorder, further research will help us discover more about the ways in which compulsory treatment can combat addiction. However, the takeaway for concerned family members is that involuntary treatment is one important tool in helping loved ones with substance use disorder.
For those that believe sobriety can only be achieved through voluntary action, it is worth noting that laws like the Marchman Act can still provide value to someone with a substance use disorder. Even if involuntary treatment doesn’t work initially, it could give a person who suffers with addiction an invaluable framework that they can return to when they make the choice to try again. Once a person is in treatment and is afforded time to heal and develop some self-awareness of the impact their addiction is having in their life, they often will develop their own motivation to recover.
A Petition Alone Isn’t Enough
The process of filing a petition is relatively straightforward but, as anyone who has experienced addiction can tell you, sobriety requires a sustained effort. This is true whether treatment is voluntary or involuntary. Even if you successfully file a petition through the Marchman Act, you still want to be sure that your loved one has the support they need.
The brain requires several months or longer to reestablish neural pathways and normalize dopamine receptors that have been affected by years of substance use. Long after these parts of the brain recover, a person with substance use disorder must develop coping mechanisms and tools to manage any potential triggers that could lead to a relapse.
Because of the limited duration of treatment mandated by the Marchman Act, a person with substance abuse disorder will eventually need to realize the need for their own participation in their recovery. Though involuntary treatment will only take a person with substance use disorder so far, the Marchman Act can potentially set them on the right path and help them begin the process of recovery.
The limitations of the Marchman Act have less to do with the effectiveness of compulsory treatment and more to do with the time restrictions on mandated treatment, along with inadequate funding from the state. Addiction professionals who understand the benefit of involuntary addiction treatment are pushing to increase funding for the Marchman Act by allocating more resources to treatment centers. However, one of the biggest limitations of the Marchman Act is its lack of public awareness. Many people who have a loved one struggling with addiction simply don’t realize it is an option.
Petitioning with the Marchman Act
For friends and family of someone struggling with substance misuse, every tool is worth exploring. If you are considering filing a petition using the Marchman Act, R&A Therapeutic Partners can help you through the process of intervention and petitioning the court for involuntary treatment. We can then help you secure the best possible therapeutic placement for your loved one. Our interventionists and therapeutic consultants understand the challenges facing you and your loved one and we have the experience to help you. Please call us at 786-452-7352 to schedule an appointment for consultation.
At R&A Therapeutic Partners Raymond Estefania and Ana Moreno specialize in substance use and mental health disorder evaluations, treatment, intervention and therapeutic/educational consulting for clients throughout the greater South Florida area, as well as nationally and internationally. For more resources and information please visit Therapeutic-Partners.com or on Facebook.