The Best Kept Secret in the Fight Against Drug Addiction

November 2, 2017
The Centers for Disease Control estimate that 114 people a day die because of drugs (TIME magazine offers a much higher estimate), and 6,748 will be sent to hospital emergency rooms for treatment. While addiction and substance abuse are undoubtedly major problems in the US, a survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration found that as many as 90 percent of people who most need drug rehab do not receive it. The best kept secret in the battle against the opioid epidemic in Florida is the Marchman Act, a critical piece of life saving legislation that has been on the books since 1993. The Marchman Act permits the involuntary commitment of an individual suffering from a drug or alcohol substance abuse disorder. After an ex parte petition is filed and reviewed for legal sufficiency, the Court can order an individual to be assessed for up to five (5) days and thereafter involuntarily committed for up to ninety (90) days. If the individual leaves treatment prior to completion of the Court ordered treatment, contempt proceedings can be initiated and a pick up order requested. The Court can use the threat of incarceration to “leverage” the individual back into treatment. I am fortunate and proud to have a brother who is a doctor currently finishing up his residency at Mount Sinai hospital in Miami. He has shared the horror of working in the Emergency Room and treating a child who has been brought in after suffering a heart attack caused by opioid ingestion. “There is nothing worse than having to tell a mother and father that their 18, 19, or 20 year old child is gone because they suffered a heart attack after shooting up with heroin. The brain cannot survive when it’s been starved of oxygen for ten or fifteen minutes.” I speak to lawyers, medical personnel and families on a regular basis and I am shocked that few, if any, have heard of the Marchman Act and how it can be used to save lives. 80% of people in treatment in South Florida are from other states, some treatment centers spending upwards of $100,000 a month to advertise and attract clients to our state for addiction treatment, yet few families are being told about the Marchman Act and how it can be used to protect patients who are at risk of walking away from treatment. We are fortunate that our local State Attorney here in Palm Beach County is working diligently to rid our county of bad actors, kudos to Dave Aronberg, Alan Johnson and the rest of the Sober Homes Task Force for the work they are doing. That being said, we cannot rely solely on law enforcement or the treatment industry to fix this problem. As members of the legal community we are perfectly placed to hear our neighbors cries for help and we must encourage those in crisis to get help, let them know that they are not alone in this fight. This

Treatment or no treatment, that is the question to ask…

November 1, 2017
Good afternoon, everyone. Audra Simovitch is our guardianship lawyer. She’s fabulous. We just had lunch with a colleague of ours who is also a mutual friend. He explained that he talked to someone who lost their child. He said, “How do you address the conversation with a set of parents when one parent wants to be the enabler and the other wants to practice tough love?” When he says, “tough love,” they’re wondering if they should kick their child out of the house. Should they cut them off?   Enabling means, “Should I give the kid money when he wants money? Should I let him go out when he wants to?” I’m using the word “he” but this is for boys and girls. The choice is not between enabling and tough love. Those aren’t the choices.   I tell parents every day that the diseases of addiction and mental health only get worse over time. They do not get better. That’s a fact. When you know that you’re dealing with a disease that only gets worse with time, then the choices are simple. That individual is going to the morgue, to prison or to treatment. Those are the choices. It’s not a choice of, “Should I enable or practice tough love?” It’s a choice of where that person is going to end up.   If you don’t want your child going to the morgue or prison, then you have to make the decision to get them into treatment. That’s the decision that has to be made. Treatment or no treatment. I think that part of the problem is that I’ve sugar coated things in the past. I was uncomfortable telling families that, if they don’t get their kid into treatment, they will either end up dead or in prison. I’m done with sugar coating things. If you do not get your kids into treatment, they will either end up dead or in prison. You have to get these kids into treatment. I realize that the 800-pound gorilla in the room is that treatment is not available to everyone. I appreciate that. I’ll be the first to agree with that statement.   The issue is, are we going to send these people to treatment or not? Expecting a child who has been dealing with addiction and has had a mental health issue for a long time to magically make the decision to stop using and put themselves into treatment is not realistic. As a parent, spouse or friend, you have to make that rational decision for them. They are not capable of making it for themselves. If they could, they would have done it already.   Stop worrying about whether you should enable or practice tough love. Decide that you’re going to get that person into treatment. If you don’t get them into treatment, they will either end up dead or in prison. That’s the choice that you have to make. We’re in the business of trying to save lives and

The National Opioid Crisis

October 31, 2017
Hello, everyone. Thank you for all the wonderful comments that I’m getting. I’m gathering that, from some of the things that are being said to me online and in person, the thoughts that I’m sharing with you are affecting other people. I’m not the only one who experiences different things during the day. I enjoy making these videos to share my thoughts and hopefully make a difference.   Last week, I thought I was feeling depressed. I’m going to be 51 in January. A friend of mine said, “You’re having a midlife crisis.” I said, “I’m normally a happy-go-lucky person. I don’t know if that’s true.” I called a friend of mine. She’s a licensed clinical social worker. I said, “I think I’m depressed.” She said, “How many people have you helped this week?” I looked at my calendar and realized I hadn’t been as busy this week as I would like to have been. I said, “I don’t think I helped that many people this week.” She said, “You’re not depressed, you’re bored. You need to go out there and help more people. When you help more people and give of yourself, you won’t feel depressed. You won’t feel bored. You’ll be happier.”   I took her advice. Thursday and this morning, I spent time calling former clients and getting back to people to see how things were going with them. It turned out, I was able to help a few more people. I feel much better. Sometimes we think we’re depressed. Maybe you are. Sometimes we’re not depressed. We’re so focused on ourselves that we lose sight of what we’re really here for, which is to help other people. I’m going to make more effort to help more people.   One of the things that we have in the works here at Drug & Alcohol Attorneys is a brand-new website that I’m building. I’m primarily building it because I think I can reach more people. If I can reach more people, I can help more people. That’s the foundation of our business model. It’s about helping more people, getting out there and making a difference. We’re building a new website. It should be up in the next four to five weeks.   I told my web designer that I want to have a bigger presence on social media. If I can have a bigger presence, then I can help more people. The underlying philosophy here is to help more people. By helping more people, I can grow a bigger business and help more people. Then I won’t call my friend to tell her I’m depressed when, really, I just need to help more people.   I had an opportunity to watch the president’s speech yesterday about the opioid addiction crisis health issue that we have in this country. While I’m happy that the president recognizes that we have a significant problem, my thought is this. Show me the money. Show us that you’re willing to put your money

What I do when there’s nothing on my calendar…

October 30, 2017
Good afternoon, everyone. This is the first video that I’ve shot in my office. I’m sitting at my desk. This is where I do my thing. This is where I come every day to get work done and meet with clients. I come in here to get things done. Today, I didn’t have any appointments set. I’m one of those people who, if there’s not enough going on, I get frustrated. I don’t know if I get depressed, but I think I get bored.   I need the stimulation. I need to be in the fight. I need to be helping people. I spend a lot of time listening to personal growth and self-help audio books. One of the people that I’ve been listening to a lot lately is Grant Cardone. Grant is based in Miami. He’s a self-made guy. He puts out a lot of amazing content. He’s in recovery. Between the ages of 15 and 25, he was using drugs and alcohol as a way to drown out the pain of losing his father at an early age. He’s been a significant source of inspiration for me.   Normally, when I’m in the gym in the morning, I listening to something that he’s put out. He puts a lot of content out on YouTube. He also has some really great audio books. As someone who doesn’t have time to sit down and read, I listen to a lot of audio books. While I’m tuning up my body, I’m also working to tune up my mind. It gets my mind set straight to come into work, into this office, get things done and try to help as many people as I possibly can.   Today I came in and didn’t have any appointments booked. One of the things that Grant Cardone talks about is touching base with some of your old clients. That serves two purposes. First, your former clients can be a great source of business. You reach out to a former client and it turns out that they need your help or a referral to someone who can help them. You can help former clients. Second, it lets people know that you’re still thinking about them and you still care about them.   Sometimes as lawyers, we lose sight of the forest for the trees. We’re so busy doing our thing. We’re focused on the next file in front us. We forget the other people we may have helped in the past. I reached out to a couple of clients today, one of whom had come to me for counsel about a potential Marchman Act. He was also working on potentially getting divorced. It turned out that he was able to get his then-spouse into treatment. She’s now in treatment. He’s taking care of the kids. He’s under enormous pressure and strain. He said to me, “I need help. I need someone to talk to. I feel like I’m starting to lose my mind.” I was able

My Latest Guest Appearance on the Addiction 911 Show

October 27, 2017
On October 19th, I was honored to be invited to be a guest on the Addiction 911 Show with Christina Rowe. The topic was How To Help Your Addicted Loved One.

Why I spend so much time and effort talking about the Marchman Act

October 23, 2017
Good morning, everyone. I just got done with a workout. I have my IU baseball cap on that I bought this weekend after spending a couple of days with a good friend in Indiana. I came back with a cold. This week was tough. Every day, I get up and try to spread the word about what I do. I encourage you to do the same.   One of the questions that I’m asked about is why I spend so much time and effort talking about the Marchman Act. We live in a world where we go about our own business. When we see an opportunity to make a difference, we turn a blind eye. I don’t know why that is. I don’t think it’s because people are bad. We’ve become a society where we’ve forgotten that we are our brother and sister’s keeper.   I still maintain that we are our brother and sister’s keeper. After 23 years of working predominantly in the criminal justice system, I’ve come to the conclusion that someone who is an addict or with a mental health issue can only go to one of three places. They are the morgue, prison or treatment. That’s it. There’s no other place that these people can go. The other thing that I know for sure is that addiction and mental health only get worse with time. They don’t get better. As time goes on, the likelihood of the first option of the morgue and the second option of prison become increasingly more likely. I haven’t yet figured out how to deal with option one. I routinely have to deal with option two.   I’m passionate about the Marchman Act because I believe that it is a way to make sure that option three happens so that one and two don’t happen. If you know someone who is in crisis or a family dealing with this, be their brother’s keeper. Say something to them. Let them know that there is a way to get someone into treatment. It doesn’t matter if you refer them to me. I would appreciate if you did. Say something to them. You can help someone.   The other question I am asked often is if I do pro bono work. Yes, but it’s limited. I’m a solo small firm. I’m building my business one family, one client and one young person at a time. As my business grows, I can help more people. As I help more people, my business will grow. Then I can do more pro bono. One of the reasons that I like to share my thoughts with you is because I want to help more people. Then I can grow my business, help more people and do more pro bono work.   It’s clear that there’s some inequity in our system. Not everyone has access to treatment. Not everyone has access to private counsel. I think that’s a terrible shame. As members of the bar, I think it’s incumbent

Keep Moving Forward

October 17, 2017
Hi, everyone. I am coming to you today from Memorial Stadium, which is the football stadium for Indiana University. I decided to take a weekend off. My dad told me many years ago that, the older we get, the faster the time goes. He was absolutely right.   It’s almost 30 years since I was last at Memorial Stadium. I came with my close friend, Phil Slotnick, who is a personal injury lawyer in Tampa. We came here to visit his cousin Kenny about 30 years ago. Michigan was playing Indiana, and here we are today, visiting his son who is a freshman at Indiana University. I’m watching my Wolverines play Indiana. The people in Indiana are unbelievably friendly. They have been welcoming.   We’re sitting with a bunch of IU fans. They are unbelievable people in the Midwest. I really appreciate being here. The weather is phenomenal. I bought myself an Indiana hat. I’m wearing my Michigan t-shirt. This is the t-shirt I bought in college. I only wear it during games. It’s pretty old, but I bring it out when it’s game time. I’ve really appreciated all the feedback I’ve been getting on my videos. It has motivated me to share a lot more of the personal side of my practice, which is helping families and individuals who are in crisis because of addiction and mental health.   When you give of yourself, as myself and my colleagues do in our practices, it’s tiring. Yesterday before I got on the plane, I felt like I was getting a cold. I said to myself, “Do I need to do this? Do I need to spend a weekend away with a friend?” I’m glad that I did. On the way here to the game, I got a call from whose child is in Florida and having issues. While I was sitting at the game, I got another call about a family that is in crisis. When you start to get those calls, you realize how important it is the work that we do. I don’t think it just applies to me and what I do. It applies to anyone who is building a business, trying to help people. I know lots of people who are doing that.   When you’re feeling tired, down and like you’ve had the energy sucked out of you, keep moving forward. It’s not always easy to do. On the days where I don’t feel like working as hard as I usually do, or when I go to the gym and don’t feel like being as intense as I normally am, I try to put one foot in front of the other. Maybe I don’t move as quick, but I keep moving forward. That’s the important thing. Keep moving forward.   I have flashbacks to the famous scene in Rocky when he is standing on the side of the street, giving his son a lecture about life. I think it was Rocky IV. The son was

Punishment, Rehabilitation or Both

October 11, 2017
Good morning, everyone. I am coming to you this morning from the Federal Correctional Institute in Miami. This is the federal prison. I was here visiting with a client and a friend. I spend a fair amount of time visiting clients in jail. Typically, I’m in Palm Beach County dealing with individuals who are charged with violations of state crime. This is a federal penitentiary. This is a whole different ballgame down here.   I wanted to share this with you because we seem to have the mindset that we want to punish everyone. I don’t want you to think that I think people shouldn’t be going to prison for specific crimes. You get violent people, people who are committing murders, rapists and people who are abusing kids. Those people have to go to prison. We should lock them up for as long as we possibly can.   There are other people who are committing crimes because they have substance abuse and mental health issues. If you’ve spent as much time in the system as I have, you realize that it’s the bulk of individuals. When I was a prosecutor, especially when I was fresh out of law school, I said to myself, “Everyone that’s here is bad. We must lock everyone up.” If you read the mandate of the legislature in Florida, our mandate here in Florida and in most states is to punish people.   There’s no mandate for rehabilitation. We just want to punish people. Some people need to be punished and locked away. The vast majority of people who are incarcerated shouldn’t be there. We are locking up more people here in America than the rest of the world combined. We’ve turned incarcerating people into a business. Instead of rehabilitating people, we’re locking them up and spending tax payer dollars to keep them locked up. When they get out, we wonder why their addiction issue has not been fixed.   Coming to visit a client, even as their lawyer, is exhausting. It’s emotionally draining. Prosecutors may be carrying 200 or 300 files at any one time. We don’t have any contact with the defendant. It’s just a file. I don’t mean that prosecutors don’t care, that we’re not there to do justice or that we’re doing something that’s inappropriate. We don’t have that level of personal involvement in a case. When you are doing defense work, you get to know the client. That’s a person. It’s someone’s husband. It’s someone’s father. It’s someone’s wife. It’s someone’s son. When I spend a couple of hours visiting with a client that I’ve known for a long time, it’s exhausting. It’s emotionally draining.   I’m going to spend the rest of the day with family. That tends to make me realize that all the things we do to try and make life better for other people is really worth it. I was up at 6:00 on a Sunday morning so I could get here in time to visit with

The Financial Side of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Issues for Families

September 29, 2017
Hi, everyone. I’m taking a break to share some thoughts with you. Myself and Audra Simovitch, who is part of my team at Drug & Alcohol Attorneys, are attending a small meeting at NAMI. NAMI is the National Association of Mental Illness. We come down here once a month to hear different professionals speak about things that have to do with mental illness and substance abuse. That is very much a part of what we do at Drug & Alcohol Attorneys. We were blessed this evening to hear a presentation by a financial planner named Allen Giese. I would be happy to put anyone in touch with him who may want his information. Several years ago, he discovered that one of his children was suffering from mental illness. That set him on a course to discover the best way for families to plan for the cost of taking care of a child who is dealing with mental illness. One of the conversations that we have regularly with families is the cost of taking care of a child who is dealing with substance abuse. No family has that Marchman Act or criminal defense savings account sitting there, because they’ve planned for their child to end up in the criminal justice system as a result of substance abuse and a mental health disorder. They don’t have an account set aside so that they can hire a lawyer and pay for the expense of dealing with substance abuse and mental health issues. Allen now counsels families on how to plan for the future of taking care of a child. He has really great information. It’s something that we hadn’t really considered before. It was a blessing to have the opportunity to hear someone like this speak. If you know someone or you’re a family that is struggling with the cost of taking care of a child like this and you would like more information, I will be happy to share it with you. Send me an email at mark@drugandalcoholattorneys.com.

The Mental Health and Substance Abuse Connection

September 26, 2017
An individual who’s in crisis because of a substance abuse disorder, is more often than not, also suffering from a co-occurring mental health disorder.  In many cases, when a child or young adult has been prescribed medication for ADHD, anxiety or depression, the slippery slope of addiction and substance abuse rears its ugly head soon thereafter.   “Studies have shown a strong connection between ADHD, alcoholism and drug abuse.  Moreover, ADHD is five to ten times more common among adult alcoholics than it is in people without ADHD. It is also more common for children with ADHD to start abusing alcohol during their teenage years.” says attorney, Mark Astor, founder of Drug And Alcohol Attorneys. While every person is different, the common thread with many substance abusers is the diagnosis of a mental heath disorder at a young age accompanied by the prescribing of medication, which frequently makes matters worse.  There are a limited number of treatment centers that can appropriately diagnose and treat a dual diagnosis client. To observe such a client become stable and in recovery is the difference between Mr. Hyde and Dr. Jekyll.  There are professionals who are ready, willing and able to assist with these issues. The team at Drug and Alcohol Attorneys can help you and your loved ones get back on track.  They do not charge for a consultation or for access to their resources. So, if your family is in crisis, you are encouraged to reach out for help.